Separating Explosives from the Detonator

Chechen terrorists did it in 2004. I said this in an interview with then TSA head Kip Hawley in 2007:

I don't want to even think about how much C4 I can strap to my legs and walk through your magnetometers.

And what sort of magical thinking is behind the rumored TSA rule about keeping passengers seated during the last hour of flight? Do we really think the terrorist won't think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?

For years I've been saying this:

Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.

This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.

EDITED TO ADD (12/26): Only one carry on? No electronics for the first hour of flight? I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks.

Posted on December 26, 2009 at 5:43 PM • 261 Comments

Comments

David MagdaDecember 26, 2009 6:35 PM

Besides those two things, are there any other things that would improve things in a real way? If the TSA doesn't have a suggestion box, perhaps the public should start thinking about these things on their own, and try to bring pressure to bear in a grassroots fashion.

Should everyone (in the US) start boarding packing heat? :)

nickhacksDecember 26, 2009 6:55 PM

But did the passengers restraining him really make a huge difference in this case? It appears that the passengers jumped on him after he had already lit his explosives, but they did not work as planned. Instead of exploding, they just kinda fizzled and burnt out. If his device would've worked, I fear the passenger response would've been way too late.

And doesn't this go back to your point about terrorists being 'stupid'? Just because a guy has the desire to blow up a plane and the will to actually go through with it, does not mean he is capable of building an explosive device that will actually bring down a plane.

YitzhakDecember 26, 2009 6:56 PM

1. Is there anything effective that we (US citizens) can do to protest this absurdity?

2. "Do we really think the terrorist won't think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?"

-- That's exactly what my 8-year old said when she overheard me discussing this (in disbelief) with my wife. Why can't the TSA be at least as smart as an 8-year old?

AuriniDecember 26, 2009 7:02 PM

Good God, I don't know why anybody subjects themselves to flying anymore; I paid for my last flight four years ago, and since then I've driven anywhere I need to go (short of a business trip to the Yukon, where I had no choice).

It's funny how sensible security practices, human rights, free market economics, and policies of limited government all tend to point in the same direction for what policies we should put in place (some sort of small 'L' libertarianism), and yet LEOs - I'm thinking specifically of my DA brother in law - prefer laws and policies that not only go in the opposite direction making us miserable, but actively make us less secure.

I think it mainly boils down to laziness on their part. They're less concerned about fighting crime/terrorism/whatever than they are annoyed by the paperwork of acquiring a Warrant.

ShawnDecember 26, 2009 7:05 PM

How long before we are flying naked, sedated, wrapped in shrinkwrap and stacked like cordwood?

Tom MDecember 26, 2009 7:07 PM

Next step will be requiring passengers to fly wearing nothing but hospital gowns. No underwear, no carryons, just you and the gown. Won't that make everyone feel nice and safe?

Karl LembkeDecember 26, 2009 7:38 PM

I see by this link, [http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/26/investigators-terrorist-wore-suicide-underwear-made-by-top-aq-bombmaker-in-yemen/], the bomber had explosives sewn into his underwear.

I'm not flying anywhere.

KirtDecember 26, 2009 7:45 PM

Short of stop flying, which is very American-centric, since I live in Japan and have to travel internationally to get anywhere - I think a lot of the recent so-called security steps are actually cost-cutting steps by the airlines.

MikeDDecember 26, 2009 7:53 PM

I agree with everyone above and this angers me just as much, but when it comes down to it this really is just more security theater. It's a pre-written, measured response to an event (like the on that occurred yesterday) that isn't designed to make us safer, but instead to make us feel safer, and to keep the train from coming off the tracks. Really, I don't think there's anything that could be done immediately to keep this from happening again tomorrow.

charlesDecember 26, 2009 7:54 PM

louisville slugger. issue one to every passenger. then let us fly again like adults.

25 or 30 angry rednecks like me on a plane? some one starts messing aorund and making trouble?

It's batting practice.

The unruly mob can do much more than our pals at TSA.

Bruce, you are one of my heroes, I love your blog.

I never want to fly again, too bad my job requires it.

PhillipDecember 26, 2009 7:59 PM

Well, while not an upgrade to 1st class, serving only alcoholic drinks should weed out Islamist terrorists with ease, since alcohol is forbidden in the Qu'ran (IIRC).

Would, of course, identify teetotalers as terrorists, too, but hey, beer!

verstappDecember 26, 2009 8:12 PM

>the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers
Except they can't if they're strapped into their seats and not allowed, by whatever means [seatbelt release controlled from cockpit?], to get up. If the perp wants to hijack the plane then cockpit access is probably required, but if he merely wants to explode all those kilos of semtex [or whatever] strapped to his legs then his position in the plane [choose your own seat allocation] probably doesn't matter that much.

DouglasDecember 26, 2009 8:20 PM

Perhaps I don't listen to the news closely enough, but it appears that more bombs have been found on planes while the suspect is trying to ignite them than have been found at security checkpoints. I've never seen a headline, "bomb found at security checkpoint."

Clive RobinsonDecember 26, 2009 8:27 PM

Hmm,

I posted the following on Bruce's Friday Squid page in answer to something posted before I realised Bruce had opened a thread on the subject
_____
@ Bobby Carbn,

"I can't wait for Bruce to comment on the Nigerian Terrorist bombing attempt on the Delta flight tonight in Detroit."

As far as I can tell from what has been said it is a failing of the way the system works in two ways.

1, Transfer passangers are assumed to have been cleared.

2, There are no penalties for trying it on with airport security.

Point 1, there is a well known hole in the security systems of airports. In some places all transit pasengers share the same facilities.

In some parts of the world security checking is minimal for non US/UK flights.

Thus it is possible in some places for minimal/non security checked non international transfer passangers to mix with security checked international travelers. This allows for contraband to be fairly easily swaped under toilet cubical walls etc (which has been done by contraband smuglers on numerous occasions).

It is no secret that Amsterdam Airport sees more criminals and smugglers than any other European Airport (there have been various figures over the years suggesting Amsterdam is the transfer point of choice for drug smugglers and illegal immigrants from Africa etc on the way to the US).

Point 2, there is a lack of penalties for trying it on with the TSA or other airport security staff.

It is a significnt hole that I have mentioned on Bruce's blog before.

As an example,

If you put an empty plastic water bottle or other container in your pocket you will quickly find out if the various scanners etc pick it up. If they do then all you lose is a little time and possibly an empty bottle.

If it does not get picked up fill it with water the next time, then saline, then other chemicals.

If at any point you get caught the only penalty is the loss of a little time and your bottle of liquid.

Providing you stick with certain chemicals you will always have an excuse for carrying them. For instance hydrogen peroxide (disinfectant /hair bleach) patasium peroxide (old fashioned sore throat gargle) glycerin (various medicinal uses) etc etc.

If dilute concentrations get through undetected then there's a better than 9 out of 10 chance concentrated versions will also get through undetected.

Point 3, If you then pick the right time of year (the southern solar epoch being probably the best) when lots of people want to travel home to be with their familes and staff don't want to do overtime etc then your odds of getting through undetected are improved.

Point 4, The great thing about it is also it hits home to all those who hardly if ever travel at any other time of year.

Point 5, Better yet, you don't have to kill yourself, Richard Reid proved this point, so you don't have to be a sucide bomber. Also even better still you don't even have to actualy get through security as the supposed London liquid bomb plot showed.

Point 6, The other good thing as far as the (political) criminals supposedly behind it are concerned the economic effect will be huge, and last for 2-5years before they have to do it again.

Point 7, From their point of view they can not lose, 1 man 10USD of easily available chemicals causing billions if not trilions of economic damage (possibly putting the world further into recesion).

Point 8, Thus proving almost beyond doubt that we are taking the wrong route in dealing with this particular bunch of criminals.

Point 9, There will always be one gullable or deluded individual and some low cost technology that will be held up as a credible attack irespective of if it ever gets off of the ground.

Why because both the Politicos and the criminals both want it to be that way.

Point 10, Oh and Bruce and others where spot on in that the passengers did bring the man down almost as soon as he started acting hinky.

I guess we will have to wait for more details to find out what (supposadly) actualy happened.

NoFlyZoneDecember 26, 2009 8:28 PM

Last time I went into an airport was 2003, to welcome a friend home. Walked in the door and some woman was standing next to a large suitcase, repeatedly and very loudly asking everyone in the (very crowded) area around her, "Did someone forget their suitcase? Whose suitcase is this?" I turned on my heel and put some distance between me and it. No replies, and then I watched two TSA buffoons walking by, stuffing their fat faces with a couple of Big Macs. They stared at her, looked around at the crowd, shrugged and strolled off.

Fly commercially? Or even go near an airport? Thanks, I'd rather put on a blindfold and start butting heads with speeding cars. Better odds.

J C BaronDecember 26, 2009 8:42 PM

Multiple learning points here:
-No-Fly list - Suspect was never on this list
-Stop list - As above ( highlights the limitations of having & administering these 'intelligence led' lists)
-Behavioral Screening (OK'd in Lagos & Amsterdam)
-Ion-Scanning (Suspect & his possessions were apparently never touched or searched).

What makes this attack a successful 'terrorist' attack is the 24 hour coverage with headlines such as 'Christmas Terror Plot' etc. There are numerous gallop poles reflecting levels of fear regarding flying and so on. While we can't completely "Deny [terrorists] the oxygen of Publicity" (Margaret Thatcher -1984), the press needs to appreciate that they can be an important counter-terrorism tool with responsible reporting of incidents without the hyperbole.

AND... Bruce: Why are you not on TV right now? These experts are not providing us with any balance or logic, aside from breaking down acronyms for German explosives. I feel cheated.

Wendy M. GRossmanDecember 26, 2009 9:29 PM

From the reports, it seems like the things that might have made the most difference are:

1- having fire extinguishers more readily accessible

2- training passengers to be better at spotting and stopping dangerous behavior.

I am so, SO ticked off at the TSA's response.

wg

BillDecember 26, 2009 9:43 PM

Hmm, I rate the risk of deep vein thrombosis much higher than the risk of terrorism. I mitigate the risk of DVT when flying by drinking lots of water and getting up and going to the toilet often. Banning passengers from leaving their seats in the last hour of the flight might well increase the risk of DVT.

EzraDecember 26, 2009 10:04 PM

A friend pointed out that the Detroit suspect wasn't yodeling. Maybe we should all yodel during all flights.

Michael AshDecember 26, 2009 10:08 PM

@David Magda

I have a very simple suggestion that would cost nothing to implement: DON'T DO ANYTHING!

About a hundred people die on the roads every day, and yet we rarely change traffic regulations. Why do we feel a need to alter airline security regulations every time there's any kind of incident? Let's stop making knee-jerk rule changes every time something happens.

auditd0rkDecember 26, 2009 10:16 PM

If all passengers are now subject to pre-board pat-downs and carry-on bag inspection, why the need to remain seated during last hour? Sounds as if the newly implemented preventative controls aren't designed appropriately and most likely won't be effective.

SeanDecember 26, 2009 10:16 PM

Last hour of flight puts it out over the ocean where fantastic, repeatable news footage tends to be rather boring (just boats and debris fields). This leaves less to crow over PR-wise and reduces visual impact, but if you're on this flight, you're dead all the same.

And if you find yourself on one of these flights, it's better to just jump any passenger acting weirdly, tie him up with a few really good first class neckties and allow it all to be sorted out on the ground later.

Having had a near miss with DVT, I've decided to help out the terrorists future goals and avoid all air travel.

Petréa MitchellDecember 26, 2009 10:30 PM

I'm waiting to see if there's a correction to the rules as reported on Monday. I notice there's still been no official TSA announcement yet.

There is *no* way these new rules are workable when someone's flying with small children. Or a medical condition that requires some kind of equipment for support.

Seriously, no pillows, blankets, books, or laptops? Throw in the special discomforts of commercial air travel and you have a recipe to start seeing even mentally healthy adults having nervous breakdowns.

Jack BurtonDecember 26, 2009 11:02 PM

Aww- everybody is crying. Get real. Honestly if you can't deal with flying and the rules then hop on a boat, get in a car or walk for all I care.

Better yet- make an airline that is exempt from any TSA rules - then lets see how many people want to go fly on it, or for that matter how many pilots want to fly it.

Schneier- Here are some things you don't seem to get:
- Security is part theater. It's meant to be.
- Security cannot catch everything. The sooner you and TSA learn this the better.
- Terrorist plans/attempts have basically originated from OUTSIDE the US. I guess TSA security theater is good enough to deter them to try to infiltrate outside countries and come to the US.
- You are just as dumb as TSA...okay...maybe not quite. Pretty close though.

Michael AshDecember 26, 2009 11:09 PM

@Jack Burton

Your post makes no sense. You claim that much of what TSA is doing is useless, but if we don't like their useless rules we should just stop flying?

MMXIDecember 26, 2009 11:31 PM

No laptops? In Business Class? Ha, see how long *that* ban lasts.

Captain Underwear wasn't very bright, was he? Remarkably like the previous Richard "greatest-mug-shot-photo-ever" Reid.

DaveDecember 26, 2009 11:33 PM

At what point do we acknowledge that a "failed" attempt actually succeeded? If everyone faces these additional procedures retuning home from the holidays, it seems to me they have accomplished their objectives. The point of terrorism is to make us so afraid that we hurt ourselves.

EvanDecember 27, 2009 12:04 AM

Are you kidding? I would _absolutely_ fly on an airline that was exempt from stupid TSA rules, if I could afford it. They do indeed exist; they're called jet charter services, but they cost many thousands of dollars per flight hour.

Bruce SchneierDecember 27, 2009 12:59 AM

@ Jack Burton:

"Schneier- Here are some things you don't seem to get:
"- Security is part theater. It's meant to be.
"- Security cannot catch everything. The sooner you and TSA learn this the better."

To the first, read my essay "In Praise of Security Theater":

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/01/...

To the second, I am having trouble coming up with an essay where I don't say that security can't catch everything.

Do you read what I write?

Bruce SchneierDecember 27, 2009 1:01 AM

"Better yet- make an airline that is exempt from any TSA rules - then lets see how many people want to go fly on it, or for that matter how many pilots want to fly it."

While I would like to see airlines compete on security -- "Less Secure Airways: Bring all the Liquids you Like" vs "More Secure Airways: We do a Background Check on Everybody" -- the externalities involved would make the market solution untenable.

Pity, really.

Peter LissDecember 27, 2009 2:28 AM

So many things wrong in ths story...

the guy was on terrorist "watch" list , his father even contacted the FBI but he was not on the TSA no fly list... so much for the inter agency collaboration that Homeland Security was all about.

He managed to get through security in Lagos (which is usually not that bad, believe me :( ) and Amsterdam (where he was definitely screened again, and any flight to the USA is subject to strict scrutiny). I would be really interested to know how he managed it (the underwear story / anal hideout looks promising...)

He most certainly doesn't have any ties with Al-Qaïda, if such affiliation can be proved / disproved anyway - it's not the Rotary and you don't get membership cards ! But it makes very good headlines.

He most probably didn't have enough explosives to bring the plane down and clearly didn't have to expertise to use them.

It's an absolute godsend for all the people willing to replace the Constitution by the patriot act...

MikeDecember 27, 2009 2:38 AM

I see Bruce is starting to get uppity again. He seemed to lose some of his know-it-all arrogance after Kip Hawley cleaned his whistle in that interview a couple of years ago.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 27, 2009 2:40 AM

@Bruce Schneier
"While I would like to see airlines compete on security -- "Less Secure Airways: Bring all the Liquids you Like" vs "More Secure Airways: We do a Background Check on Everybody" -- the externalities involved would make the market solution untenable."

Why is that? I can see a problem with an airline trying to have LESS "security" than what the TSA mandates.

But how many ads do you see where airlines tout their own extended security program?

Now compare that to the number of car ads that mention their safety features.

Michael AshDecember 27, 2009 2:45 AM

@Brandioch Conner

Having less than what the TSA mandates would be the whole point....

The externalities are that you can use a hijacked plane to kill people who didn't make the choice to use the low-security airline.

If it were just a question of killing passengers and crew, then you could have an "anything goes" airline where you're encouraged to bring your own gun to help handle rowdy people, and who cares? But the possibility of such an airliner crashing (or being crashed) into an inhabited area and killing people on the ground makes it unacceptable.

RonKDecember 27, 2009 3:04 AM

@ Mike

I realize I'm probably feeding the trolls, but I didn't discern any significant change in Bruce's, er, polemic (might be a bit strong a word, sorry) over the last few years. Could you post with details of the exact date of the interview and how you think it affected Bruce's position?

RonKDecember 27, 2009 3:08 AM

"upgrading the passengers to first *glass* and giving them free drinks"

LOL. An interesting Freudian slip after a bit too much Christmas cheer, perhaps?

Nancy LebovitzDecember 27, 2009 3:49 AM

I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first glass and giving them free drinks.

In a better world, trying to make this happen would be the premise of a screwball comedy. A real terrorist plot would be foiled in the process.

As for conspiracy theories about the TSA, I'm betting that convenient travel is considered to be too good for the common people.

Babylon_n_tinDecember 27, 2009 4:01 AM

Chenchen "terrorists"?

Why don't you stick to a subject you know something about, like computer security?

Please stop your crude attempts at propaganda.

-pete.December 27, 2009 4:49 AM

The interesting thing about airline processes is that it could be a closed system with few variables which can interact at various frequencies over a specific time line. That means its possible to give specific separations between types of interactions, give specific separations based on specific trusts, maintain controls over all interactive points at levels that balance the trusts, and then have staff and systems which monitor trust levels in real time instead of threats. A final process of monitoring and infraction penalties (based on trust level) would round this out for each interactive point. This is not hard to do but it would take work upfront. It would require an operations audit of the entire process and a team to do the math to find the right balance between trust and control (with security and trust metrics like in OSSTMM 3). It would not have to be completely new for each airline but it would have to be done for each airline as each is unique. We've done this for many organizations large and small and covering all types of interactions and it's the only way to get security and safety that works consistently without the need for "patching" (aka knee-jerk security reactions). Best reason for buy-in by an airline: these audits are relatively cheap and ALWAYS more than pay for themselves by uncovering inefficiencies and resource waste which the airline can use to improve the bottom line.

EricDecember 27, 2009 5:33 AM

I agree with Charles. I've been saying it for years.

Put an umbrella stand next to the jetway, full of baseball bats. Take one when you board, put it back when you deplane.

Passengers are now no longer at a disadvantage from weapons that were surreptitiously carried on because hidden weapons are necessarily smaller (and with a shorter reach) than a baseball bat. The bat is weaker than the cockpit door. Of course now terrorists have bats too but don't have a weaponry advantage and can't count on numerical superiority.

oaktownadamDecember 27, 2009 6:10 AM

I think every passenger should be issued a knife upon boarding the plane.

As Heinlein said, "An armed society is a polite society."

How many terrorists would think twice about trying to hijack a plane full of a couple hundred angry, armed people?

JanWoDecember 27, 2009 6:23 AM

Sancta simplicitas!


Next time someone tries to strangle a stewardess with his belt, tie or shoelace. Maybe it's time we all have to fly naked and handcuffed.

kevinmDecember 27, 2009 6:27 AM

@Jack Burton, attitudes like yours and the TSA are the reasons I no longer do business in the USA. I like your country, esp the wilderness and open spaces, but travel there is no fun any more.

Clive RobinsonDecember 27, 2009 6:57 AM

@ RonK,

"LOL. An interesting Freudian slip after a bit too much Christmas cheer, perhaps?"

Or a subtal joke on,

"People who live in glass houses should not throw stones".

Speaking of jokes and such. In the UK we have an expression for something that is seen as a failed attempt in that we say "it's pants" the irony of this Nigerian attempt has possibly caused a number of wry looks in the UK.

Charlie StrossDecember 27, 2009 7:18 AM

Clive Robson: "1, Transfer passangers are assumed to have been cleared."

This is not true at Schiphol (Amsterdam's airport), which our perp passed through when boarding the AMS-Detroit flight.

At Schiphol, for flights leaving the EU, there's a separate screening setup -- X-ray machine and metal detector -- at *each gate*. The "security zone" is a glass-walled room from which you board your flight directly -- and no other flight. So the security at your airport of origin could be piss-poor, but you'll still be screened to Dutch standards before you're allowed to board an onward connection. (And the Dutch, when they do security, seem to have a chip on their shoulder about being insufficiently German.)

Here's the real problem: Abdulmutallab managed to smuggle his IED through the most secure airport in Europe -- far tighter than anything you get in the USA, probably second only to Tel Aviv.

(As for your second point, lack of penalties for trying it on with airport security ... maybe you think that's the case everywhere, but outside the USA, you really don't want to try that. US airport security is lax by international standards; the TSA are just going through the motions.)

lukasDecember 27, 2009 7:49 AM

Having less than what the TSA mandates would be the whole point....

The externalities are that you can use a hijacked plane to kill people who didn't make the choice to use the low-security airline.

This scenario is unlikely to pan out these days. After 9/11, passengers know this may happen and will react to hijackings appropriately.

After all, the reason that the 9/11 attacks were successful is that passengers & crew thought their lives would be spared if they followed the hijackers' orders, as had hitherto been the case. That trick only works once.

bacDecember 27, 2009 7:58 AM

Will there ever be a time when the terrorist stop trying to control or blow up planes? I would think the airport itself would be a good target. It is big and there are a bunch of people moving around all the time.

If a bomb went off inside the airport, policing authorities would have to close off the airport for investigation. The planes that were going to take off would be put on hold and the planes that were going to land redirected. The airport would be shut down for many hours.

If this terrorist attack could be done near a holiday, terrorist would win big time.

MarkDecember 27, 2009 8:13 AM

Considering the amount and positioning of the explosives involved this person had a good chance of being in the small group of living "Darwin Award" winners.

ScumbagDecember 27, 2009 8:21 AM

The questions here that not enough folks seem to ask are these: What good is TSA actually doing? How many planes are being blown up in any other parts of the world? Is the cost/benefit relationship good for the airlines? Is it good for their customers? What are the prosects for putting together smaller group charter airlines that don't comply with TSA? Maybe ones with armed guards onboard with plastic shot, and safety slug weapons, and a CLEARLY LAID OUT SECURITY POLICY THAT EVERY PASSENGER READS AND SIGNS BEFORE BOARDING i.e. "We're cool with pretty much whatever, but if you try to pull some stupid $hit, we will shoot you, and we have parachutes. By signing this form, you agree to these terms and conditions .

Please enjoy our free refreshments and food, and enjoy a safe and comfortable flight."

I'll bet tickets would sell like hotcakes. Food for thought.

Jan RychterDecember 27, 2009 8:25 AM

Charlie Stross is right -- Amsterdam is one of the best airports as far as security is concerned, world-wide. I've been through it hundreds of times.

Additionally, on some long-haul flights they do psychological screening, which is very expensive, but also very effective. You basically go through an interview, where an intelligent person (this is important) asks you all kinds of questions. The interviewers also get together after all passengers have boarded to exchange notes and look for any trends.

I guess this flight didn't have that screening (I don't know who pays for it), I'm fairly certain they would have spotted the guy in no time.

aikimarkDecember 27, 2009 8:49 AM

I wonder what the airlines will do when passengers soil themselves and their seats because they were forced to sit in the last hour of their flight. I anticipate an Onion story on the replacement of standard airline seats with personal toilets. "It started with catheters and then progressed to these new seats."

Seriously?!? A domestic flight that only lasts 90 minutes, with cabin service starting 20-30 minutes after takeoff, will offer passengers no opportunity to use the loo.

Jersey BobDecember 27, 2009 9:03 AM

@Tom M: I wouldn't mind being on a flight where everyone is wearing only hospital gowns.....as long as I'm guaranteed a seat next to a cute redhead.

This could be a great marketing scheme for airlines. Southwest would have a ball.

chingerDecember 27, 2009 9:10 AM

Ban electornics? WTF?! Do they really think terrorists cann't use chemical detonators?

ArthurDecember 27, 2009 9:52 AM

It's extraordinary how few people stop and ask the question 'How come the Israelis seem to have managed this problem successfully over the past 30 years?' All the answers we need to deal with this are in plain view, in use every day by El Al and the Israeli government. Since the answers are however classified as politically incorrect, we prefer to see air travel in the US become an increasingly absurd (and hazardous) farce.

All it really takes is looking more closely at people who look dangerous. It's perfectly possible to do this in a rational and even fair way, but the whole approach gets ruled out as 'discriminatory', leaving us stuck instead with more and more bureaucratic nonsense on the way to our planes.

CTreesDecember 27, 2009 9:59 AM

Actually Ian, I've had nothing but good experiences with Amtrak (I regularly use it to travel in California). CERTAINLY nothing like I've had to deal with when flying.

This is neither the first, nor likely the last time I'll say it - if this country had a decent high speed rail network, I'd be unlikely to ever fly again.

aplDecember 27, 2009 10:03 AM

NYT on new security measures: "The new regulations, which the government spelled out in bulletins sent to the airlines and to airports, were aimed mainly at international passengers. But domestic travelers said they also noticed security steps in airports and on planes. On one flight, from Newark Liberty International Airport to Little Rock, Ark., flight attendants kept cabin lights on for the entire trip instead of dimming them for takeoff and landing."

Keeping the cabin lights on to foil terrorists?

When Brandeis said that sunlight was the best disinfectant, I don't think this is what he had in mind.

CGomezDecember 27, 2009 10:38 AM

Americans, you must begin educating your friends, families, and neighbors. They vote, and the people elected are a reflection of the voters.

The voters do not understand security, so they nod when the policians they elect tell them we need to being strip searching everyone. It will make us safer.

It's just the same ideas your uneducated neighbors, family, and friends would have.

Blaming the politicians is just shifting the blame. Who votes for them?

Lenny PalmerDecember 27, 2009 10:46 AM

Jack Burton said:

"Better yet- make an airline that is exempt from any TSA rules - then lets see how many people want to go fly on it, or for that matter how many pilots want to fly it."

You bet I would fly such an airline. It would be the safest way to fly. Would-be hijackers would never know how many passengers were armed, and would therefore stick with safer (for the hijackers) TSA-controlled flights.

Freedom is illegal by definition.

JohnDecember 27, 2009 10:50 AM

It's important to keep reminding people that - in the end - the attempt was unsuccessful and this guy was stopped.

We still don't know exactly what he had in mind, nor whether he was even capable of pulling it off had he not been stopped.

EHDecember 27, 2009 10:57 AM

Jack Burton said:

"Better yet- make an airline that is exempt from any TSA rules - then lets see how many people want to go fly on it, or for that matter how many pilots want to fly it."

And from where exactly is this airline going to takeoff and land? You'd have better luck disconnecting airline travel from national security.

MarkDecember 27, 2009 11:10 AM

I can just imagine the father's letter to the FBI:

Dear Esteemed Sir,

Your exalted profile has recently presented itself with great visibility on my desktop. In my humble executive capacity in the service of the President of Nigeria, Dr. (hon) Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, I am responsible for bank reserve assets exceeding $321M US, and my urgent mater of to-day requires confidence of the utmost degree as you may well understand...

...


oaktownadamDecember 27, 2009 11:11 AM

@ John:
"It's important to keep reminding people that - in the end - the attempt was unsuccessful and this guy was stopped."

That remains to be seen. If TSA overreacts (again) to this incident, it will have been successful, even though there was no explosion.

CSDecember 27, 2009 11:13 AM

Last hour sitting... yes, because we want to ensure the comfort of terrorists as they detonate. Holy cow, people, if I were about to blow up a plane I wouldn't be worried about the sitting down rule. Next time something happens they'll have the last hour hands-on-head rule... Kurt Vonnegut couldn't have written it better.

MarkDecember 27, 2009 11:13 AM

Why do we continue to give faith a pass?

Am I really the only liberal in the world who thinks that doing the minimum required amount of school work in order to have more time for prayer is not a red flag?


CSDecember 27, 2009 11:17 AM

@ John:
"It's important to keep reminding people that - in the end - the attempt was unsuccessful and this guy was stopped."

But I thought he had already detonated himself with a failed result. I wouldn't call that being stopped. Unsuccessful maybe, but not stopped.

xxDecember 27, 2009 11:57 AM

A smart terrorist would simply use one of those small carry-on wheeled bags everyone uses these days. The square metal rods which collapse down are hollow and only have a small steel wire down the centre to actuate the release mechanism when collapsing the handle down to stow the bag. Since the metal handle will be largely opaque to X-rays, simply place an explosive charge in there with a hole to accomodate the wire, so the handle still collapses, complete with timed electrical detonator; the wires and battery will be invisible. The plastic handle on most bags unscrews to allow easy access to the internals of the two metal rods. For added impact, fill the bag with clothing that has been soaked in something and then dried - weedkiller containing Sodium Chlorate would be an easily obtainable choice - that will not register on any explosive sniffer (no nitrates, no complex organic molecules).

Now, does this have to be picked up by the security forces as a plot before we get even more risible security measures. Seriously, there are so many ways for a smart terrorist to game the system - bulk freight carried on the same flight is still largely unscreened for instance and the requirement to start screening it shortly to be introduced will prove so onerous that for sure something will get through that way.

Petréa MitchellDecember 27, 2009 1:03 PM

Hang on, everyone-- there *is* an airline that competes on security. Unfortunately its destinations are limited.

http://www.seaportair.com/

"No TSA" appears prominently in their TV ads. They manage it for the Portland-Seattle run by going from a private terminal at PDX to privately-run Boeing Field.

David Dyer-BennetDecember 27, 2009 1:21 PM

Was this one stopped? I don't think it was; seems like he performed his plan through to completion, it just didn't actually work.

But if it was stopped, it was by a passenger, who left his seat to do so.

What bugs me is, an attack using a syringe and some powder, allegedly stopped by a suspicious passenger going over to the suspect, generates a response of "no electronics" and "no leaving your seat". What's the connection?

cynicalDecember 27, 2009 1:29 PM

Y'all are a bunch of rubes.

The people running TSA are ideologically opposed to TSA's existence.

That's why TSA doesn't work. The people in charge of the agency right now are against the concept of a federal government agency. Remember, the Bush admininistration didn't want this agency. That administration "caved" politically when the TSA got put into law. But that administration appointed key people who still remain in key positions. They're sabotaging the agency from the top down.

Eventually they may succeed. They do enough silly stuff to piss off the voters, and Congress will abolish TSA. They'll hand security back to the "free market". The ideologues will win. Yea free market. Yea capitalism. Boo communism. Boo socialism. Boo the feds. Go USA!

Y'all are being taken for a ride. You're a bunch of rubes.

Lenny PalmerDecember 27, 2009 1:32 PM

Seaport Air sounded too good to be true. From their "Contract of Carriage":

Passengers and their Baggage may be subject to inspection by SeaPort Airlines personnel or
employees of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA). Inspections may be conducted by
hand or using electronic devices with or without the passenger’s consent or knowledge.
Persons failing to consent to searches requested the TSA will be denied boarding.

PackagedBlueDecember 27, 2009 1:56 PM

@cynical 1:29PM

You raise some good points.

I wish some would see Diehard 2 again.

ThomasSDecember 27, 2009 2:20 PM

Regarding the success of this attack, what is a terrorist aiming for?

If a single terrorist with a dud of an IED scares us further into isolationism and recession, how can that be anything other than a success on his part?

Jack BurtonDecember 27, 2009 2:23 PM

Mr. Schneier-

Thanks for the reply. First off I please realize that the link you provided goes back to a blog entry you made in 2007, I based my opinion on the many articles and quotes I have seen from or attributed to you regarding "TSA Security Theater" as only a negative. Forgive me for not reading each one of your blogs back 2+years. Although I do appreciate that you did acknowledge it, just wish you would do so more often.

I was going to say something about how you always seem to bash TSA but then I realized in my one posting I bashed them as well (hey, they are easy targets) so instead I will post something POSITIVE- ...hmmm...Well, for the most part the regular workers that I see in Hawaii and Washington (state) are all very accommodating and generally nice enough. Of course there are A-Holes and unfortunately that is what we tend to remember and gripe about. I think they do pretty well considering some of the stupid rules they are forced to follow. I've had more than one apologize for having to follow rules that didn't make any sense to them as well.

EscalationDecember 27, 2009 2:25 PM

Burce,

So what are we going to do when people start putting explosives inside their bodies? If Christopher Nolan could think of something similar in the last Batman movie, does anyone really believe terrorist won't think of something similar? What happens when the drug mule gets turned into an unwilling bomber? Even sedated naked passengers with their luggage in a separate airplane can't be guaranteed safety.

Tel Aviv airport in Israel has an impressive record but even they had an incident in 2002. I would actually love for this to be seriously debated on the news. If everyone was keenly aware of what a facade airport security was wouldn't they demand something more effective than the smoke screen and harassment we have to put up with now?

Darren R.December 27, 2009 2:39 PM

What really concerns me with this is that an attack method has been publicised for which there is no countermeasure and that the government has publicised it.

If they went to the press about a new 0-day exploit against apache and for which there was no patch ready, can you imagine the uproar on the Internet?

When a plane gets blown up by a terrorist that secretly gets explosives on board, I'd like to see TSA/FBI named as defendants in a law suit for publicising a successful attack method without simultaneously providing an adequate countermeasure.

We would have been much safer, as users of air transport, if this had of been kept quiet until effective countermeasures were ready to be deployed. Doing that could be tricky with a plane load of witnesses but I'm sure there are ways.

What makes for an effective countermeasure? That's not my field of expertise but between "sniffers" and "full body x-ray" machines, there's got to be something effective in the pipelines.

Jack BurtonDecember 27, 2009 2:40 PM

@kevinm-

Really? That's why you don't come to the US anymore. People like me who think you should just obey the rules and not whine endlessly about it. Tell you what- Deprive yourself of the National Parks that the US has- it's your loss. Hell- I've only been to Arches, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon (both rims), Volcano, Olympic and Capitol Reef- but I can tell you I'd put up with just about anything to see them again.

Then again other countries also have natural beauty that equal or even surpass that of the US. For example Canada's Banff National Park is something to behold- then again you probably don't want to deal with those Canadians right?

NostromoDecember 27, 2009 2:47 PM

Lucky we have the No-Fly list to stop people like this getting on planes! Oh wait ....

Jack BurtonDecember 27, 2009 2:50 PM

@Michael Ash-

Boy addressing all these comments takes time- I think I have some new found respect for anyone that writes blogs and responds to stuff. Anyway- Michael, I was irritated when I wrote that so perhaps it comes off wrong but in a nutshell I'm saying- If you don't like it then find some other way to get there. I mean TSA has fairly simple rules for getting on a plane (I'm not saying they are all good rules, just simple rules) and almost anyone should be able to comply with their rules- especially anyone that travels with any consistency. I have to admit that I do like their IDEA of having different lines for different types of passengers, although I'm not exactly sure how well it works in practice.

As for much of TSA being useless- Well as I said I think they excel at theater- which is a good deterrent. But according to reports they consistently do poor on their own internal testing (they get some points for doing them and being honest enough to report that they fail miserably) so yeah- they do fail at the stuff they are supposed to be catching. I think that is a fair assessment.

Urs HessDecember 27, 2009 3:04 PM

I just realized that flying would be so much safer if EVERYONE on the plane was GIVEN some sort of weapon at check-in. Instead of trying to take them away!

On the other hand, TSA is actually doing something for climate protection. Making flying so much less attractive will help the environment so much more than anything else...

ChuckDecember 27, 2009 3:08 PM

just guess...
Schipol airport is one of the pioneering airports using "x-ray scanners", i.e. millimeter wave scanners, aka "full nudity/naked/porn/... scanner"

http://www.schiphol.nl/web/show/id=70944/...

why waste good money? being stripped down, and taped naked to your seat for a 10 hour international flight should be as "safe"...

MoeDecember 27, 2009 3:36 PM

Just how much thought went into these restrictions? There can't have been much, because we were hearing about them just *hours* after the event!

Seriously, I do NOT want to fly any more. The airlines can go bankrupt for all I care. I'm not afraid of the terrorists, I just don't want to put up with the security theater!

Mauro SDecember 27, 2009 3:51 PM

Flying naked? Hospital gowns? Not effective against cirurgically implanted bombs – hey, they did that with drugs already.

And I am assuming that everybody will have to go through body cavity searches, right?

ralph tylerDecember 27, 2009 4:17 PM

Perhaps some common sense can be restored if enough people would apply economic sanctions to the airline industry.

For example: consider not flying unless absolutely necessary.

There are plenty of things to see and do within driving distance when it comes to vacations.

This is what I am doing for a while, until I see something that resembles sanity from the TSA.

The process of air travel is becoming nearly unendurable for many reasons and we're supposed to enjoy our vacations, right?

Magenta GriffithDecember 27, 2009 4:38 PM

I am old enough to remember diatribes against the Soviet Union in the 1950's and '60's. One was that they restricted the travel of their citizens inside the country and well as outside, using internal passports and many regulations. I'm beginning to wonder what the difference is between all the TSA regs and the old Soviet Union. We are resembling them in far too many ways.

Greg ConenDecember 27, 2009 4:44 PM

Question:
How does asking passengers to remain seated and not use electronic devices stop terrorists?
If the bomber really needs to stand up to use his bomb, I think it's safe to say he won't remain seated because of a TSA rule.

kPDecember 27, 2009 4:53 PM

Bush told us that 'they hate us for our freedom', so once we've lost our freedom, will 'they' stop hating us?

Alexey FeldgendlerDecember 27, 2009 7:23 PM

I'll summarize some of the views expressed by many commenters above and try to comment on them.

> The attack was in fact successful because it has put millions of travelers under awful restrictions.

Yes, that's what I think, too. Actually, I suspect that pretty much all airplane incidents since 9/11 were like that.

The 9/11 attack itself seems to have pursued the traditional goal of maximizing the direct damage, that is, kill as many people and destroy as much property as possible. And it does take a lot to prepare an attack that is to be even partly successful. Think about it: the guys actually learned to pilot planes, they planned, they synchronized. This must have been expensive. The security was milder back then, the act was thorouhly prepared, and yet it was only partly successful (one of the hijacked planes did not reach its planned target). However, beside the direct damage the attack did, it turned out that the secondary effect was enormous: security panic, people refusing to fly, various limitations on people's liberties, resulting economical damage.

And that must be the moment when the attacks became smarter. Who needs to prepare an expensive, complex and risky attack that can fail, ruining the investment, when you can send some loser on a plane to try and light up his shoe (which is almost guaranteed to fail), and then millions of passengers will have to take off their shoes every time they fly? Sure, it's still less damage than killing a lot of people AND causing disruption, but hey, it's almost free! By the cost-to-damage ratio it's far more efficient to do find cheap but creative ways to fail attacks than to put a lot of money and effort into succeeding on one. By the way, the guys who want to do a successful attack usually blow up buses because it's so much easier.

> The added security measures are ridiculous, they aren't going to stop any real attack. I can think of ten ways to bypass them.

That's right, I agree with Bruce that it's security theater. I'm pretty sure TSA realizes this just as well. However, they are under pressure to do something visible about every high-profile incident right now, or a significant fraction of people will be too scared to fly (and to live in general), which would be a serious disruption to the economy.

> Next thing you know, we're going to fly naked, sedated, and strapped to the seat.

No, that's not going to happen, it's really too far out to imagine. TSA has to balance between doing too little (scared people won't fly) and too much (pissed-off people won't fly). That's why the shoe trick worked, but the ass trick wouldn't.

> Allowing and even encouraging passengers to bring weapons onboard would be efficient to prevent terrorist attacks.

This is just another case of the old firearms debate in which I'm not going to take sides. I'll just say that the real danger of dying in a terrorist act is so tiny compared to common risks such as, say, dying from food poisoning, that implementing ANY security measures against terrorism, no matter how good or bad they are at preventing it, has practically no bearing on your chances to live to your next birthday, even if you are a frequent flyer. It's all about how secure something feels, and for the masses it certainly feels safer to take weapons away from passengers than the converse.

Also, in a security theater it's really difficult to undo something that's done (unless it's been declared as a temporary measure and undone quickly enough). Try lifting the liquid ban, which is probably the most useless restriction, and all it takes is one more loser who fails to explode a Cola-based bomb or something (Mentos in a diet Cola can anyone?).

> I wish there were airlines exempt from TSA rules. I'd totally fly them.

As pointed out, there are some, but their market share is tiny — hey, most people haven't even heard of them. In case the trend takes off and a significant share of flights become “TSA-free”, all it takes is an attempted (and most likely failed) attack on one of them. “See? That guy *tried* to stab the stewardess with his screwdriver! That's what comes out of lax security!” — and that puts an end to “TSA-free”.

> Airline security cannot be subject to free market. Risk your life all you like, but you can't risk the lives of people in the cities who didn't make a choice.

That's why the above will work.

> That's it, I'm not flying anymore.

I'm sure you're not alone. You and people like you are the actual reason why passengers aren't going to fly naked and handcuffed — see above about the balance TSA has to maintain. In fact, you might be the reason why the most recent bunch of security measures might eventually get reverted.

> Look at Israel, they're doing it right.

Israel is a very small country and a very favored target for terrorist attacks. This makes them unique in requiring such an exceptional level of security measures (although their security is not without a theatrical component, too). Implementing something like that in a huge country would be immensely expensive. However, because it's not really about the real security as much as it is about perceived security, cheap but highly visible measures such as banning laptops “work” better.

Snarki, child of LokiDecember 27, 2009 7:44 PM

bac @ (regarding attacks at airports, rather than airplanes)

You don't remember the simultaneous attack at Rome and Vienna airports, mid-80's, just after Xmas holidays? Been there, done that.

Now, the funny thing is, if a bomber brought down a plane over the ocean, there's a decent chance that no one would ever know it was a bomb. If it was over land, it might take weeks or months to figure out, and might get hushed up (remember the plane the crashed on Long Island, a few weeks after 9/11?). So probably reduced or even zero "terror impact".

But an attempt that fails, even fails comically like flaming underwear? Well, that leaves a bunch of *witnesses* to spread panic. Just set up a patsy that thinks they'll be a suicide bomber, but make sure that their equipment isn't quite going to work. Since the patsy was expendable anyway, what the hell?

Of course, it does depend on having a large number of bedwetting panicky idiots around to spread the panic far and wide.

MoeDecember 27, 2009 7:50 PM

I have to shake my head at people who post details on how to blow up planes in an open forum. I worked 25 years as a mechanic on a major airline. If I were to become a terrorist, everyone would have to fly in a hospital gown and have all luggage shipped ahead. I could tell you how to blow up a plane using no chemicals, detonators, electronics and a 4 year old could do it. You don't see me posting it. These latest TSA regulations are all useless and a major inconvenience to us frequent fliers. They should adopt El Al's methods. These involve a lengthy interview with every passenger. Even Israeli's aren't immune. I kind of think that Muslims if they actually fly El Al would be subject to a much more extensive interview. All luggage is X-rayed. After you get on a plane, there is at least one armed plain clothes security person on the flight. You won't see something like this happen on El-Al. Too bad Americans are so absorbed with political correctness and fear of offending Muslim sensibilities, that they will just keep making up more useless restrictions every time something like this happens. The terrorists have won.

ChasmosaurDecember 27, 2009 7:56 PM

Flew from DCA to MSP today on Delta/Northwest. While I admit I already had the upgrade to First Class, there were no announcements about seating or carry-on limitations.

I did note that TSA took a closer look at my carry-on at the checkpoint than on my trip out, but they didn't pull it aside as they sometimes do (one piece of good jewelry I travel with looks suspicious to untrained agents, even pre-9/11).

I realize this was a domestic flight, but flying in and out of DCA/Reagan National is always where you see the TSA go overboard...

GeorgeDecember 27, 2009 8:22 PM

The TSA's Mission is to react as quickly as possible to any incident involving attempts to destroy an airliner. And react quickly they did, thereby providing the necessary reassurance to the public. That's what the TSA does, and they do it very well.

Of course, the reaction doesn't have to be effective or even sensible. And indeed, by the time it gets flowed down to the screeners at checkpoints we can be certain it will be implemented in the mindless, inconsistent, and infuriating fashion for which the TSA has earned a stellar reputation. The only thing that really matters is that whenever an incident occurs, we can rely on the TSA to react to it.

We can't be certain that the "tightened security" will do anything to prevent the next incident. And given the TSA's famous inconsistency (and their consistent performance on undercover tests), we can't even be certain it will be effective at preventing a repeat of past incidents. The only thing we can know with certainty is that air travel has become incrementally more difficult for the millions of travelers who are not terrorists. Apparently that reassures and comforts enough people to make it worthwhile. And for that the TSA deserves our full appreciation.

HawthornDecember 27, 2009 8:28 PM

TSA is being asked overnight (and during the holidays) to more or less double their screening on international flights, so it's no surprise that domestic routes are relatively unaffected. They couldn't possibly staff this effort level for both domestic and international without hiring more screeners.

I suspect this is going to depress air travel numbers overall. People will put up with enhanced measures while the sense of threat is high but eventually they say the hell with it.

Bruce must be ecstatic that his "security theater" catchphrase got an LATimes sound bite. Definitely better than "a PhD in Horribleness." Of course as usual there's no better alternative offered, except I guess maybe "Hire Bruce."

They just detained 2 guys at Phoenix for FWA (Flying While Arab). Meanwhile some nimrod nearby is watching "The Kingdom" on his laptop. Genius award!!

What bugs me is I flew to Mexico for holidays on Christmas morning and now I have to figure out what to throw out and how to check my 2nd carryon item. It'll be interesting!

fusionDecember 27, 2009 8:31 PM

>>You won't see something like this happen on El-Al. Too bad Americans are so absorbed with political correctness and fear of offending Muslim sensibilities, that they will just keep making up more useless restrictions every time something like this happens.>>

I've seen this comment a lot on travel forums. I've never seen anyone object to El-Al type security. The main reason I've seen for not implementing it is cost, not fear of offending sensibilities.

On the other hand, I have seen many objections to racial profiling, but that's usually because people don't believe it works. See, e.g., Anne Marie Murphy, Timothy McVeigh or Israeli security personal on the futility of racial profiling.

GeorgeDecember 27, 2009 8:50 PM

@ralph tyler: For example: consider not flying unless absolutely necessary.

That's exactly what I've been saying and doing ever since the TSA was established. I have concluded that it's absolutely the only thing we can do about the TSA's intrusive ineffective inanity, since Congress is too cowardly to do anything to force some sanity (or any constraints) on the out-of-control super-agency. Since they can't be changed or reasoned with, the only thing we can do is to "just say no."

I have a rule: "If I can't get there in my car, I don't go." It has worked well, in large part because I live in an area that offers limitless possibilities for exciting road trips as well as staycations. (Unfortunately, they have to be road trips, since Amtrak's user-hostile routes and schedules are completely impractical for anything.)

Yes, I am choosing to miss out on those many places that can't be reached by car. But the airlines and the TSA have forced that choice, by making air travel such an ordeal that it's just not worth it. But instead of bemoaning where I can't go, I'm focusing on all the wonderful trips I CAN take without being treated like a convicted felon by my own government so I can be treated like cargo by an airline. That's the only remotely effective avenue we have to protest the increasingly intolerable situation of air travel.

What the TSA doesn't seem to realize is that each of their checkpoints mights as well be a memorial to Mohammed Atta, Richard Reid, the London liquid bombers, the latest Nigerian terrorist, and every other two-bit thug who has led the TSA to react with boneheaded "heightened security" that makes travel that much more difficult without making anyone safer. The 9/11 hijackers are safely in Hell, and the other (failed) terrorists are rotting away forgotten in prison. But even when their plots failed to destroy any airplanes, they achieved a large measure of success in the small hassles continually inflicted on millions of passengers. The death of a thousand cuts may not be as spectacular as an aircraft falling out of the sky in flames, but it's a lasting success nonetheless. And in a way it's more of a tragedy, since the success was achieved entirely at the hands of our own government.

Bruce has pointed out the proper way to respond to terrorism. But unfortunately, it's not acceptable to politicians and bureaucrats whose career advancement depends on "doing something," irrespective of its value, cost, and effectiveness. There has to be a better way than what the TSA is doing. But until someone figures that out, "If I can't get there in my car, I don't go."

JohnDecember 27, 2009 9:21 PM

It might be useful to fund some research into how to detonate hidden explosives using microwave or similar technology. Then have passengers walk through a tunnel at 50 yard intervals while being "microwaved". Anyone with explosives on or in their body would self-destruct...

APDecember 27, 2009 9:31 PM

Call me cynical, but I don't think restrictions on passenger movement (going to the bathroom, using electronics) are put in place by the TSA only for security theater. I think the airlines want them as airlines have never liked passengers getting out of their seats to use the restroom or walk about the cabin.

Passengers who stand up interfere with the ability of the flight crew to sell their crappy, overpriced food and beverages. And if, by some chance, a passenger trips, bumps into something, and hurts himself that's a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Bathrooms also add weight to the plane, use up valuable seating space, and need to be cleaned and serviced. Perhaps in the future, airlines will be able to use terrorism as an excuse to stop offering bathroom service entirely and say that passengers, like astronauts, will have to wear adult diapers. Maybe having restroom access will be a benefit reserved for flying first class.

On every flight I've ever taken, the crew has taken great pains to prevent passengers from getting up, whether its physically locking the bathrooms during the first few and last few minutes of flight or having the captain declare that no one can get up because he thinks there might be turbulence. Remember also, the Jet Blue passengers who were stuck on the runway for 8 hours and not allowed to get out of their seats. This happens in a small way every day as many flights sit on the runway for long periods of time.

With the TSA's help, the airlines can restrict passenger movement even more. No doubt they are helping to drive these restrictions.

CSTARDecember 27, 2009 9:53 PM

OK I got it. Prior to boarding, each passenger will be required to wear a TSA approved highly absorbent adult diaper (with RF authentication technology) a goggle-type computer display controlled by a trackball device, various massage devices to prevent muscular stress (I won't discuss in what parts of the body these devices go) and a suction device to ingest liquid to prevent dehydration.

Each passenger must have a hand on trackball at all times.

This will prevent need to go to the bathroom or use hands for terroristic purposes or need to use laptops for ehatever.

Frank Ch. EiglerDecember 27, 2009 9:53 PM

@Magenta: "I'm beginning to wonder what the difference is between all the TSA regs and the old Soviet Union."

Then you truly don't understand either.

spaceman spiffDecember 27, 2009 10:15 PM

First we had the shoe bomber. Now we have the butt bomber. After Richard Reid we have had to take our shoes off to pass security. What are we going to be forced to submit to now, "Please drop your trousers and bend over"? I think I've had it with air travel. I already have tickets to California for a family wedding in two weeks. I think that's the last time the airlines will get any $$ from me until someone with the authority to do so (the President?) puts their foot down and refuses to continue to accede to all this security theater.

anonymousDecember 27, 2009 10:25 PM

I note the new security regs (no standing, nothing on the lap, only one carryon) would have done nothing to stop this attack that generated them (he was seated, and it was in his underwear). Of course, a good 1970's era bomb-sniffing dog would have caught it, but that's so lo-tech. How can the security industry sell their multi-million dollar scanners if a dog can catch the perp?

blueMagooDecember 27, 2009 10:27 PM

I really really hope that this doesn't cause even one more stupid screening procedure to make flying an even more onerous experience. You can never make anything totally safe so let's hope the government stops wasting everyone's time & money and gets us all back to some form of airline security reality.

Michael AshDecember 27, 2009 10:42 PM

@cynical

I, for one, would welcome the abolition of the TSA. Thus, while I may be unaware of your supposed conspiracy to bring it down from the inside, I'm certainly not being taken for a ride if that is in fact what's going on.

D GaldosDecember 27, 2009 11:18 PM

@Mike D

"I agree with everyone above and this angers me just as much, but when it comes down to it this really is just more security theater"

Actually, it's starting to seem more and more like it's not even security theatre. That would imply that there are people left who still actually feel better when they hear the TSA's latest half-baked rule. As someone said, an 8 year old can think of "Why don't they just blow it up in the first hour, then?"

At this point it's pure bureaucratic cover-your-ass. If somebody managed to pull off the exact same terror technique that was already tried previously, somebody at TSA would get in trouble. "You should have seen that one coming!"

As long as the next terror plot is at least somewhat different from all the previous ones, their ass is covered. What needs to change is they need to have real accountability for the results.

But I'm not sure how you would do that. How would you measure that? How would you make TSA accountable for the actual outcomes of transportation safety?

ChrisDecember 27, 2009 11:18 PM

Just wanted to chime in here on the 'avoid-the-USA' sentiment that the "security theatre" engenders. My daughter was granted a wish from an organization that grants wishes to sick kids. Our first choice for her wish was Disney World, but we couldn't risk taking her through American security checkpoints. We've heard anecdotes from other parents of disabled kids about border security insisting on opening medical supplies in sterile packaging to investigate for the possibility of contraband.

I know that our family is not alone. Your security travesty in your airports and from what I have read at other points in your 'great' nation (citizenship checkpoints in the desert? Really? Wow - Checkpoint Charlie INSIDE the USA!) is costing your economy millions if not billions of dollars in lost tourism.

The rest of the world used to admire the Yankees for having big brass balls. Now you are all acting like frightened school children. You have M-16's and rocket launchers in your basements, but you let nameless bureaucrats in Washington trample your rights like yesterday's breakfast in the name of some ill-defined and unachievable 'security' from the Boogey-man or as they like to refer to it, "the terrorists".

I watched Obama get elected, thinking that finally common sense had returned to the throne of power, but it would seem that such is not the case.

It's probably already too late, but you might want to think about taking back control of your country from whoever the hell you gave it to. They surely are not interested in the best interests of 'the people'. And in the meantime, stop flying commercial, and tell the airlines why. It's a corporatacracy. Impact their bottom line, and the airlines will stand up to the government. Obviously some people will not or can not choose to stop flying commercial, but enough people can still choose to make a difference.

cynicalDecember 27, 2009 11:34 PM

@Michael Ash

You're the one who used the "conspiracy" word.

But anyhow, I'm glad you're too smart to ever get conned.

Nobody's gonna take Michael Ash for a ride, that's for sure. He's not a rube.

KentDecember 28, 2009 12:01 AM

With this new mentality of passengers addressing any threat in the cabin, do we really need to expend so much energy at airports with prohibiting items such as nail clippers and scissors? Threats from hand-held weapons have been pretty-much mitigated. TSA and airport security worldwide should focus more on detecting explosives in every possible form. Out with magnetometers and in with explosive-sniffing devices and animals.

longdeshiziDecember 28, 2009 12:04 AM

To those deploring the 'political correctness' of the TSA in not using racial profiling, a) profiling is used quite frequently, even if it is not admitted (I have too many anecdotes about this), and b) with all of the crazy white protestant males bringing AKs to presidential speeches and shooting up churches and museums, I wouldn't be so eager to enact profiling: it wouldn't be just dark muslim men receiving scrutiny.

Michael AshDecember 28, 2009 1:04 AM

@longdeshizi

The bigger problem with profiling is that you're just telling your adversary what kind of person they need to use to slip past your screening. Virtually any sort of person can be found who believes in a crazy ideology enough to die for it, whether brown males, white males, little old ladies, you name it.

chudezDecember 28, 2009 1:07 AM

@Jack Burton -

"Really? That's why you don't come to the US anymore. People like me who think you should just obey the rules and not whine endlessly about it. Tell you what- Deprive yourself of the National Parks that the US has- it's your loss. Hell- I've only been to Arches, Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon (both rims), Volcano, Olympic and Capitol Reef- but I can tell you I'd put up with just about anything to see them again."

Uhmmm ... for all intents and purposes, Chicago lost the Olympics because of the sad state of affairs in US ports of entry. This is just one publicized example, and the loss pretty much represents hundreds of millions of dollars. Makes you wonder how many more millions are lost in unpublicized occasions.

And as for the tightening restrictions, I wonder how long it will take before "terrorism" is replaced by the simpler but equally dangerous "going postal".

BrianDecember 28, 2009 1:10 AM

Here's how you start with profiling: Spend 90% of your effort on men. Next step: 90% of that on men aged 16-65.

Then force that demographic to sit in aisle seats, accessible to each other.

Expand the stewardesses' training and job description to include kicking ass.

Bomb sniffing dogs, of course.

Also, make TSA policymakers fly on a randomly chosen route once a week as part of their job description.

Michael AshDecember 28, 2009 1:24 AM

@Brian

Do you really think that terror groups are unable to recruit female suicide bombers, do you think that the 10% effort would catch them anyway somehow, or are you just joking?

keithDecember 28, 2009 1:40 AM

The essence of this complete and utter retardation is the FEAR that the TSA and the airlines have of -god forbid -’profiling’ of any sort. The reality is if they tossed of the strait-jacket of political correctness and actually screened PASSENGERS instead of objects, they’d knock this stuff out in no time.

In Israel- where they are in constant danger of suicide bombings -they are not afraid to pull people out of line that look suspicious -that fit the ‘profile’. They leave grandmas, and celebrities and ‘normal’ people alone because why? BECAUSE THEY DON’T BLOW THEMSELVES UP LIKE SWEATY, NERVOUS LOOKING TERRORISTS DO. And we all know what they GENERALLY tend to look like.

I GUARANTEE anybody with half a brain could have spotted this undie-bomber guy a mile away and thought, “What the hell is wrong with that guy? He doesn’t look right…”

Ass covering and the concern for lawsuits comes WAY before the true concern for people and their safety.

JGDecember 28, 2009 1:50 AM

@David Magda

> are there any other things that would improve
> things in a real way?

The only thing that could improve things is simply accepting that fact that zero tolerance is a deadly, counterproductive fallacy in all cases and that life comes with probabilistic risk which can not be eliminated no matter how hard we try and how strongly we believe our own LSD kool-aid ideologies.

Bruce aptly pointed out the Bayesian aspects of detecting "terrorists" some time ago: the sensitivity and selectivity of such a test must be impossibly accurate and even then there's a point of non-perfect best case that results. The odds are for mostly false positives and false negative and few true positives and true negatives. This alone works against cognitive limits because it fatigues everyone's brain to the point that initial test sensitivities and selectivities are worse over time.

These exact same basic mathematical laws are what make guerrilla combat predictably unwinnable to a conventional force (see Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan). Specifically Lanchester equations posit a targeting accuracy which is a Bayesian test result of intelligence gathering and target identification. Smart weapons are insanely accurate but only if you have correct targetting.

For a 3-variable army-guerrilla-civilian population model, you are assured that innocent non-combatants will be more likely killed than actual guerrilla/terrorists. Life is in some measure safer as a guerrilla than as a civilian. Sound like any Afghan wedding parties you've heard of lately? These are not accidents but inevitabilities of the structure of this form of combat as fought by a conventional force.

But it gets worse. Controlling an event is a feedback control problem and seeking zero tolerance is effectively the same as seeking zero feedback error signal. If you are foolish enough to even achieve that goal, you have simple created a control system with no feedback at all - an open loop control system or the functional equivalent of a completely uncontrolled system. And because of limits of cognition and information quantization, you hit "open-loop" status long before you actually hit perfect zero error.

This is why this kind of situation is so pathetically wasteful: the entire apparatus of TSA security amounts to nothing and accomplishes exactly the opposite of its stated bureaucratic goal at the expense of economic productivity and Constitutional freedoms. And we seem to be trying to only accelerate this death spiral.

And people (like my mother) wonder why I, a native born, 4th generation American, am seriously considering emigration!

csrsterDecember 28, 2009 1:53 AM

Today there was a new scare involving a passenger who took an inordinately long time to use the toilet. Expect all aircraft to be retrofitted with new toilet doors that open automatically after five minutes.

PendulumDecember 28, 2009 2:13 AM

Keith and Brian,

Either you believe in the effectiveness of your screening for everyone or you don't for anyone. Profiling does not change that

Do you really think that there are not white jihadists (e.g. Adam Ghadan), female jihadists (e.g. the many women who've blown themselves up in Israel), or whatever other group you'd like to apply lower scrutiny for because the don't fit the profile?

abcDecember 28, 2009 2:33 AM

al Qaeda has already thought of anal cavity explosives and used one in the recent attempt on a Saudi prince's life. So this is another example of where discussing a threat in public doesn't tell the terrorists anything they haven't thought of already. It seems like it should be possible to hide enough explosives in the anal cavity to hole the fuselage. You could embed a timer detonator in the explosive (bummer for the terrorist if their flight is delayed or canceled!) or it could be detonated remotely by a cell phone signal or Bluetooth signal. I don't know why they haven't tried this already. It's probably only a matter of time.

Could we develop airliners (or better yet modify existing ones) in some way so that they would survive having the fuselage holed? All of these attacks depend on the secondary damage caused by the escaping air ripping open the fuselage further. Holing of the fuselage could be detected by sensors embedded in the airliner's skin or by detection of the sudden pressure change internally. If you then opened exaust valves throughout the airliner, could that safely vent the pressure and enable the pilot to dive from 35,000 feet down to 5,000 feet while the passengers survived using oxygen masks?

Detecting anal cavity explosives in airport screening seems like a hard thing to implement cost-effectively for all passengers. I can imagine a low-res MRI sufficient for detecting anal cavity explosives, but each passenger would have to strip naked to walk through which would slow down security lines unacceptably. Plus, anyone with metal fillings or replacement joints couldn't go through that screening. Imagine what their "alternate screening procedure" would be like!

El Al-style psychological and behavioral profiling accompanied by interviews and intensive screening of suspicious individuals probably is the way to go.

If that new brain scanner that supposedly detects the brain wave patterns of people who are lying pans out, having everyone answer a few simple questions ("Do you intend to cause the airplane to crash? Do you intend to harm anyone?" etc.) would be another approach.

In the short term, I think we have a serious problem here with an attack method we have no way to detect or stop.

GweihirDecember 28, 2009 4:33 AM

"What happens when the drug mule gets turned into an unwilling bomber?"

Excellent idea. Add a chemical fuse (no metal parts) and you are done. Since drug mules already have a significant level of stupidity, they are unlikely to notice themselves.

Michael AshDecember 28, 2009 5:03 AM

@abc

As far as I understand it, the pressure differential is something of a red herring here. Just look at the many airliners which have experienced holes and survived to see that blowing a hole in the side is not enough. Aloha Airlines 243 is the extreme case of this.

The disproportionate damage caused by a bomb on an airliner as opposed to, say, a train, is caused not by the fact that an airliner is pressurized, but by the fact that an airliner is relatively fragile and traveling at high speed. The effect is magnified by the pressure differential.

One mechanism for bomb damage on an airliner is to ignite fuel. How this works should be pretty obvious. Avianca Airlines Flight 203 is an example of an airliner lost to a terrorist bombing because of this.

Another mechanism is by disrupting the airliner's controls. Pan Am 103 is an example of this one. That bomb blew a hole in the wall that separates the cargo hold from the control area below the cockpit and shook flight control cables. This greatly magnified the effects of the blast, and the nose section quickly broke away from the rest of the plane due to this shaking (note, not due to the bomb blast itself).

There's no way you'll be able to vent the entire aircraft to ambient pressure fast enough to make a difference. In the absurd case where you simply opened up the entire back of the plane and let the air flow out, the flow will occur at about the speed of sound, which is also about how fast the shock waves from the explosion are traveling. Any realistic venting solution will be slower (and then you have to consider the consequences from improper activation of it, which will happen from time to time, and which will kill people).

IMO the best solution is to simply accept that we're going to lose an airliner from time to time. The current rate of losses due to bombings is extremely low and ought to be acceptable. The drive to reduce this loss rate to zero is inherently futile.

Making an airliner more bomb resistant means making it stronger, heavier, and costlier, probably far more so than it's worth. Bomb prevention is probably a much better route than bomb resistance if you want to stop them.

TomDecember 28, 2009 5:22 AM

TSA could have gone with the equally effective measure of banning 23 year-olds from flying.

fusionDecember 28, 2009 5:51 AM

@ brian and keith

You are demonstrably wrong.

Anne Marie Murphy was a young, normal looking Irish woman traveling on El-Al. El-Al security questioned her extensively and discovered a bomb.

google her name for details.

WilDecember 28, 2009 6:17 AM

@abc
"I can imagine a low-res MRI sufficient for detecting anal cavity explosives, but each passenger would have to strip naked to walk through which would slow down security lines unacceptably. Plus, anyone with metal fillings or replacement joints couldn't go through that screening. Imagine what their "alternate screening procedure" would be like!"

People with metal fillings/ joint replacements can use MRI scanners. The problem is pacemakers - instant cardiac arrest in a subset of people with pacemakers when they enter the MRI's magnetic field. Also metal specks in the orbit (eg in people who weld for a profession) which dislodge and can cause significant eye damage.

Also MRI scanning is *slow*. 100% impossible with current technology.

JADecember 28, 2009 6:55 AM

@JG

Thanks for the thorough explanation about probabilities.

People want the risk of dying in a terrorist attack to be zero, but will text or use their cell phone while driving their car.

In the US you are far more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than by a terrorist even if you fly weekly. But people who receive a DUI here are allowed to keep driving.

Basically, humans are stupid when it comes to making decisions based on conditional probabilities. And organizations are even more stupid.

James3678December 28, 2009 7:23 AM

By locking people in their seats, TSA is breaking the only thing about this situation that did work. Today, if the same incident happened, none of the passengers who actually did something could legally get out of their seats. Great, now interfering with a terrorist across the aisle is now illegal.

Rik SmoodyDecember 28, 2009 7:36 AM

Expansion of MedicAir
Let's require real medical screening exams on the way to the airplane.

Instead of subjecting passengers to indignities and inconvenience which stop short of being able to detect a determined bomber with plastic explosives, treat travellers to full medical screening.

Clothing would not be optional: it would be forbidden.
Patients are already accustomed to being asked to strip, then wait.
The exams would detect not only plastic explosives, but also polyps in the colon, breast cancer, arterial plaque, and plantar warts. As long as patients are being scanned...
Passengers would get their clothes back at the end of their exam or the end of their flight, which ever comes later.

This approach clearly improves air traffic security as well as public health.

MarkDecember 28, 2009 7:52 AM

According to more detailed reports today, the measures on incoming international flights include disabling on-board entertainment devices installed permanently on the aircraft for the last hour of flight as well. What this is meant to accomplish beyond raising passenger stress level is a mystery to me.

MarkDecember 28, 2009 8:29 AM

@bac
If a bomb went off inside the airport, policing authorities would have to close off the airport for investigation. The planes that were going to take off would be put on hold and the planes that were going to land redirected. The airport would be shut down for many hours.

Might not even need real bombs. Leaving some suspicious packages around is likely to result in the airport being closed until the bomb squad can deal with them. A threat without anything being may be even more disruptive. Since then you have people searching for something which isn't there at all.

RichardDecember 28, 2009 9:18 AM

There are some intelligent comments here, so perhaps someone has an intellient answer to this query... Why does Janet Napolitano still have a job at the TSA? Apparently she told CNN, "one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked." I would suggest that "the system" didn't work, rather the explosives failed and a Dutch guy took action. "The system" had nothing to do with it, as an article on WSJ explains...

JeremyDecember 28, 2009 9:24 AM

NY Times is reporting this morning that Napolitano has backtracked, and is no longer claiming the system worked. Also, the Dutch are saying that although they have lots of the millimeter wave machines (more than anywhere else in the world), they're prohibited from using them on US-bound passengers (no explanation why).

Unfortunately, still no explanation from TSA of what they're doing (is the ban on moving around for an hour, and really nothing on laps?) and why they think it will make a difference.

jrghDecember 28, 2009 9:36 AM

As has been pointed out previously, the terrorist could use the screening for his purpose.

Carry a powerful suitcase into the airport and detonate it when it gets put on the scanner. Wipe out TSA agents and hundreds (even thousands) of passengers, completely shut down the airport for an extended time, and it's virtually non preventable.

On a less dramatic note, we have another reason for not flying. My wife has a medical condition that results in unpredictable and sessions of very strong coughing. At very least this is likely to cause some over-reaction H1N1 scare, and could conceivably be much worse if some trigger happy sky marshal decides that this is some form of 'diversionary action'.

BraadDecember 28, 2009 9:47 AM

While ditching the TSA would be absolutely wonderful, keep in mind that the entire House of Representatives stands for election every two years, and the American public have never taken advantage of the opportunity that fact presents.

jabrwok59December 28, 2009 10:38 AM

@ Chris
"It's probably already too late, but you might want to think about taking back control of your country from whoever the hell you gave it to. They surely are not interested in the best interests of 'the people'. And in the meantime, stop flying commercial, and tell the airlines why. It's a corporatacracy. Impact their bottom line, and the airlines will stand up to the government. Obviously some people will not or can not choose to stop flying commercial, but enough people can still choose to make a difference."

You said it beautifully. Thank you. It's our choice to let the terrorists win by acting more and more like sheep. May I suggest some personal responsibility; on the ground, in the air and in the voting box. It's our country, we better start acting like it and stop handing our freedom over to Big Brother W and his antecedents. Balance freedom and security because you don't get both. I personally am willing to err on the high risk side of freedom as it is extremely precious to me, more precious then my life or the lives of my family. Give me the knife and the baseball bat and I'll board any plane. Take away my Gerber, and I'll drive thanks.

Lis RibaDecember 28, 2009 10:42 AM

I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks.

Well, you now have the goal for your next Movie-Plot Threat Contest... ;)

TurnipDecember 28, 2009 10:59 AM

@markat:

We've discussed this scenario. Instead of detonating explosives what if someone went around and rubbed a bit of residue on every railing, door nob and light switch they could find.

Suddenly 1 out of every 5 people tests positive for bomb residue... put yourself in the person whose the TSA "person" for that airport, what would you do? Very quickly the number of possible scenarios that you have to contend with goes up exponentially.

JohnQSecurityDecember 28, 2009 11:07 AM

It's interesting that everyone here talks about how the terrorists win now that the TSA is responding in such a haphazard fashion. These "terrorists" aren't intelligent people who want to make it difficult for the world. They're people who are mentally challenged; they're not thinking that they want to disrupt an economy, or that they want to kill a plane load of people. They have it in their head that they can be martyrs for their cause. Or some other crazy thing.

It's been said before. You can't protect against all threats. But I don't think that's the point here. The TSA's response to the incident don't make sense.

We've got morons writing the rules. We've got minimum wage idiots enforcing the rules. And the TSA doesn't operate outside of the U.S., where the flight in question originated. And even if they did, you've still got a problem: the people who enforce the rules. Guess what? They're human. Aside from this, they're underpaid. And they're mostly uneducated people who are there just to get paid. BTW - it's worth noting that the only requirement for Transportation Security Officers is that they have a high school education. Even if a TSO is college educated, this doesn't mean that he knows what to look for. Since the threat is evoluationary... I think we have a bigger problem that has to be solved. Artificial Intelligence as a supplement to humans has always interested me. :-)

HJohnDecember 28, 2009 11:23 AM

@: "Security succeeded."
___________

While I:
1) agree that passengers need to fight back, and
2) am very glad this attack was not successful,
I would hesistate to say "security succeeded."

Imagine someone trying to steal from walmart, and another customer noticed and took action to thwart the crime. Then imagine the press or walmart of both touting that "walmart's security succeeded." Nonsense. Had it been a different customer, the same customer paying attention to someone else, a craftier thief, or no customer, it would have succeeded. Security really had nothing to do with it.

To be sure, teaching passengers to fight back is key in making us all safer, but luck of the draw on what passenger sits where is certainly no success for security.

GeorgeDecember 28, 2009 11:37 AM

@Braad: While ditching the TSA would be absolutely wonderful, keep in mind that the entire House of Representatives stands for election every two years, and the American public have never taken advantage of the opportunity that fact presents.

This is exactly why Congress has made no attempt to rein in the continually escalating ineffective stupidity of the TSA (or for that matter, the War on Drugs). Each member is well aware that any attempt to restrict or restrain the TSA will be exploited by opponents who will gleefully label them "soft on terrorism" and remind voters of any vote to "weaken America's protection against another 9/11." Solely in the interest of ensuring their reelection, they continue to write blank checks to the TSA and pontificate about their commitment to victory in the Global War on Terror.

Even if the American public attempted to fix the problem with the ballot box, it would do no good once the replacement politicians are ensconced in office. The TSA is thus accountable only to itself. and there's absolutely nothing we can do to change that aside from refusing to fly.

(I should also note that if the TSA ultimately succeeds in making aviation "security" so onerous that the airlines shut down for lack of business, their leaders will consider it a great achievement comparable to the eradication of smallpox. For if air travel no longer exists, neither does terrorist threat to commercial aviation. The Homeland Security Department can thus crow endlessly about being the first security agency in history to completely eliminate a threat!)

AndréDecember 28, 2009 11:40 AM

If you say that only reinforced cockpit doors and active citizens make your flights safer, isn't that ignoring air marshals?

John NicholsonDecember 28, 2009 11:55 AM

@ Andre -

Please explain how having an air marshal on this flight would have changed events? The passenger cleared security and did not raise suspicions until he tried to detonate.

While it's possible that if an air marshal were on a flight with a potential bomber, then it's also possible that the air marshal might notice the potential bomber "acting hinky," but that requires the air marshal to notice the potential bomber's behavior as something different from the other few hundred stressed out/drunk/exhausted/non-air marshal or flight crew language speaking/aviatophobic passengers. Air marshals are more of an anti-hijacking measure than an anti-blowing-yourself-up measure.

The armoring of the cockpit door and the policy (and passenger) change to refuse to cooperate with hijackers performs the same function as the air marshal.

OjayDecember 28, 2009 12:03 PM

@Moe:
"I have to shake my head at people who post details on how to blow up planes in an open forum. I worked 25 years as a mechanic on a major airline. If I were to become a terrorist, everyone would have to fly in a hospital gown and have all luggage shipped ahead. I could tell you how to blow up a plane using no chemicals, detonators, electronics and a 4 year old could do it. You don't see me posting it. ... The terrorists have won."

Security through Obscurity.... tell me you saw this coming. All you are saying is, if no one talks about it, it won't happen.

How much of ostrich do you have to be to bury your head in the sand like this?

Sheesh! Tell the yanks to grow some balls, and a brain while they are at it.

IMHO, the only useful piece of advice so far comes from @CGomez:
"Americans, you must begin educating your friends, families, and neighbors. They vote, and the people elected are a reflection of the voters. .... "

TankDecember 28, 2009 12:16 PM

The issue is how much security are we willing to pay for? The folks at TLV can do it because "only" 3 million or so people got through their airport every year. There probably that may people thru O'Hare each week or so....people are sheeple and very cheaple...(sorry) If we had to pay double for better screening the airlines would all go out of business and then we could fly C-130's and C-17's on USGovernment Air..

KurtDecember 28, 2009 12:39 PM

I am embarrassed to carry a US passport with the idiots we have running the country now. Home land security? They spend a hell of a lot of money and couldn't even get this guys name on the NO FLY list even though they were aware of his intentions.

I hope they will let me carry an empty water bottle because that is what I will be peeing in during the last hour of the flight. I can tell you now the aircrew won't be happy when I hit the call button!

RoyDecember 28, 2009 12:41 PM

I am happy to remind everyone that corporate aircraft bypass the entirety of TSA and their criminal harassment of passengers. Obviously it's impossible for terrorists to take over a business jet and use it as a weapon, because it's impossible for terrorists to board executive jets, so none of Kip Hawley's 23 layers of security are needed.

therestorestoreDecember 28, 2009 12:43 PM

So what color and style of pants and underwear was this terrorist wearing that he tried to ignite? (AKA the PANTSBOMBER)

TSA should ban (or SSSS-ify) those kinds of pants, as that kind of legwear is now linked to terrorist behavior. (absurd? yes, but it is only paralleling the notion that forbidding activity in the last hour of the flight will do anything either - because that's what this guy did)

So, when the shoebomber tried to light his shoes, we had to all take off our shoes and have them "scanned". Do we need to all be forced to take off our pants and undies now and have them "scanned"?

What time of the flight did the shoebomber try to light his shoes? The beginning? The middle? The end?

Why are we not forbidden to do anything during THAT portion of a flight?

A previous commenter asked how soon we will all be forced to fly naked, sedated and wrapped in plastic. I would answer that: Tomorrow, if it was up to the TSA.

MikeJDecember 28, 2009 12:48 PM

Glass doors on the washrooms, with an opaque roller blind on the outside. After 9 minutes it beeps to warn the occupant, and after 10 minutes it snaps open.

RightyDecember 28, 2009 12:54 PM

A lefty like Bruce is glad that regular old citizens actually fight back and defend themselves? That's like Republican talk or something.

JD BaldwinDecember 28, 2009 1:28 PM

"I said this in an interview with then TSA head Kip Hawley in 2007: 'I don't want to even think about how much C4 I can strap to my legs and walk through your magnetometers.'"

OK, so a motivated terrorist who is willing to risk prison in the attempt, and expend his own life in the event, can bring 10+ pounds of C4 aboard an aircraft. Presumably, he can find a way to smuggle or rig a detonator as well (a few grams of black powder, a flash bulb and a 9V battery would probably do the job). Presto: one lost aircraft, 300 or so dead Americans (or whomever) and a big, fat black eye for Uncle Sam.

So: why isn't this happening on a daily basis? What can we do about it on a "real countermeasures" (as opposed to the "magical thinking") level? Nothing? Something different from what we do now?

WesDecember 28, 2009 1:31 PM

@Brandioch Conner
"But how many ads do you see where airlines tout their own extended security program?

Now compare that to the number of car ads that mention their safety features."

That's because travel by car is inherently dangerous as it is today and travel by airline is safe.

ReynardineDecember 28, 2009 1:32 PM

1. It seems to me that every time some incompetent dipstick tries to blow up a plane, collective punishment is visited on us, the unfortunates who, for some reason, are forced to fly. (Yes, you know why I fly: I can't walk on water.)

2. I suggest that people like me, who have military training and/or are licensed to carry concealed handguns be allowed to carry them aboard, loaded with appropriate frangible ammunition. It would work better than the tempered glass nail file I carry now, while not endangering the integrity of the plane.

3. People, revolt against the stupidity! Just say "No!" to taking off your underpants when the new rule goes into effect.

mcbDecember 28, 2009 1:36 PM

@ Andre

"If you say that only reinforced cockpit doors and active citizens make your flights safer, isn't that ignoring air marshals?"

The only air marshall intervention since 9/11 was when a Rigoberto Alpizar was shot in the head as he reached into a backpack he claimed contained a bomb. Alpizar was apparently mentally ill and the incident occured while the jet was parked at the gate. Are there other incidents I missed since 2001? I mean other than lowering their once much vaunted marksmanship standards, allowing marshals with pending criminal cases to remain on active duty, or marshals being convicted for international drug smuggling?

HJohnDecember 28, 2009 1:45 PM

@Brandioch Conner: "But how many ads do you see where airlines tout their own extended security program? Now compare that to the number of car ads that mention their safety features."
_______________

Apples and oranges. The airlines aren't selling planes, and the car manufacturers aren't saying it is the roads or drivers that are safe. Likewise, we never see Amtrak or Greyhound tout the safety features of their vehicles, nor do we ask for the safety specs of a cab when we get in. Completely different products and services being sold.

Leo GreenDecember 28, 2009 2:47 PM

I came to post exactly what Reynardine said.

I'd feel safer with some of the idiot gun nuts I know on an airplane, than I'd feel with the dumbwits working at TSA securing my flight.

(And I say "Idiot gun nuts" as someone rabidly pro-gun)

ZedDecember 28, 2009 3:10 PM

"How long before we are flying naked, sedated, wrapped in shrinkwrap and stacked like cordwood?

Posted by: Shawn at December 26, 2009 7:05 PM"
***********************
And WHY is this a bad idea? That sounds like a heavenly flight if you ask me.

John DoeDecember 28, 2009 3:33 PM

Anyone thought to mention that the TSA has not had an appointed head for a year, since the GOP is holding up Obama's nominee in the confirmation process?

JRDecember 28, 2009 3:38 PM

Oh yeah, and now Al Quaeda claims to be responsible. After 3 days. This is so ridiculous. But it works.

This is the dialogue which took place in a tent in the Saudi desert or in a cave in Pakistan a couple of hours ago:

"Well, who was that chap?"

"Dunno."

"Should we claim responsibility?"

"Hmm... let's waits three days until they have figured out whether they feel scared. If yes, we'll connect our name to their feeling of being terrorized, again. Otherwise, we'll forget it."

"Ok, g'night, brothers."

"G'night."

Bob WardDecember 28, 2009 3:53 PM

Every time we change our air flight rules and lose more of our liberties, the terrorists win.

HJohnDecember 28, 2009 3:55 PM

@John Doe: "Anyone thought to mention that the TSA has not had an appointed head for a year, since the GOP is holding up Obama's nominee in the confirmation process?"
___________

Silly me, I thought the Dems controlled both houses of congress and had 58 seats + 2 left-leaning independents for a 60 vote fillabuster proof majority in the senate.

Valdis KletnieksDecember 28, 2009 4:14 PM

Let's face it - we as a society have let the terrorists win. bin Laden used 19 highly trained operatives in a well-designed plot almost a decade ago, and since then the terrorist world has continually jerked out chain with shoe bombers, water bottle bombers, and roast-nuts bombers - none of whom needed anything near the level of clue or training or dedication the 9/11 operatives had (you don't have to die for the cause, just get arrested).

Now the thing that worries *me*:

What is Osama bin Laden planning with all the *competent* recruits he's gotten since 2001? You know he must have gotten some - but he's saving them.

For something. But what?

Brandioch ConnerDecember 28, 2009 4:33 PM

@HJohn
"Apples and oranges. The airlines aren't selling planes, and the car manufacturers aren't saying it is the roads or drivers that are safe."

Nor did I say they were selling planes. The car reference was an example from an unrelated market showing how different markets do sell on safety features. The question was why do the airlines not follow the same practice that is common in other markets. People die in car accidents.

But there are instances of airlines advertising that they have FEWER restrictions.
http://www.seaportair.com/
"No lines. No rubber gloves. No need to take your shoes off. Simply arrive 15 minutes before your flight, board and go."

So I am asking why there aren't any instances of airlines advertising their EXTRA security.

Jeremiah StaesDecember 28, 2009 4:55 PM

For those who think we should implement the same security measures as Israel - a few notes of scale make it almost impossible to do so. I'll keep it quick so two points of fact:

1) El-Al is all of 36 planes - Delta Airlines *alone* is a fleet of 449.

2) Israel is a country of 7.4 million. The entire country has less people than the city of New York. WAY easier to manage.

Valdis KletnieksDecember 28, 2009 5:51 PM

@brandioch:

"So I am asking why there aren't any instances of airlines advertising their EXTRA security."

Because the general populace will *say* they want to be more secure, but they don't really want to pay extra for it - just like people complain about airline food service cutbacks, but they'll buy a cheaper ticket rather than fly the airline with good food service.

That plus, most of the *good* security enhancements actually needed would be either not understood, or simply fairly invisible to the general populace. This leaves you selling them "Extra Security Theater". If I'm advertising better food, I can tempt them with steak. If I advertise better security, what do I tempt them with, anal probes?

someDavidDecember 28, 2009 6:12 PM

I hope it doesn't hurt to add one more daft, off-topic comment to the dozens of others on this list.

A couple of people have suggested that the TSA mission is to make air travel more difficult, to the point of losing market share.

It's an idea that has historical precedents. Think of the ways mass transit was gutted by auto companies - by making it noncompetitive. Similarly, in the era of canal freight, railways bought canals in order to jack up fees and drive business to the newer ventures. Deliberate mismanagement is an old and effective technique.

It's a factor to consider, along with the political motivation to keep the agency overvalued but well-funded.

HawthornDecember 28, 2009 6:32 PM

So what would be the TSA's motivation to kill air travel - to encourage the rocket pack industry?

ScottDecember 28, 2009 7:03 PM

To those who think the new TSA regs make us more secure, on my flight from a foreign country on Saturday, we had to follow the new regs one hour out from landing, but no one was actually monitoring whether we followed the rules. Needless to say, it was trivial to get something from my bag during descent. Really, these kinds of useless regs only make TSA and our govt look ridiculous. Oh, did I mention that I had a full 20oz bottle of coconut oil in my right pocket when they searched my bag? It stayed in my pocket all the way to the plane - we had forgotten to put it in one of our checked bags.

I'm not griping because the new regs are inconvenient -- if they really helped I'd applaud them. But the fact is that they're plain useless and wouldn't have stopped the attempt on Christmas. All they are accomplishing is pissing off the flying public.

Ctrl-Alt-DelDecember 28, 2009 7:39 PM

@ "What is the difference between a terrorism attempt and terrorism?"

None - if the effect is the same. And in this case, it is the same. Stupid new rules, more hassle for innocent travellers, massive publicity for the terrorists.

@ "if this country had a decent high speed rail network, I'd be unlikely to ever fly again."

If enough people started going by train and the payoff looked good enough, they'd target the trains.

@ "Anne Marie Murphy"

And more recently there was the woman whose laptop was shot three times by Israeli security. Your point is?

The new "security" measures would have had no effect on the recent attempted stupidity. I'm just waiting for the explosion when someone with traveller's trots or a prostate problem tries to make an emergency run past a skymarshall.

What does worry me about this is the demonstrated "me too" attitude of many governments around the world to each new US security folly. What the US does to itself doesn't bother me - I just won't go back there till I see some sanity returning - but fear is contagious and CYA is a universal truth.

kvetchDecember 28, 2009 8:00 PM

After Richard Reed tried to hide a bomb in his shoes, the TSA made all passengers remove their shoes before proceeding through the security checkpoint. This guy put the bomb in his pants. What's the next security step?
Actually, of course, he illustrated exactly what the adults said after all the security people panicked over the alleged plot to make bombs with liquids--you can't get enough ice on the plane to keep the thing from overheating and burning up.
Personally, I'm just waiting for the "terrorists" to realize that they can pack a plastic cigar tube full of semtex, add a blasting cap in a non-metallic shell, a bit of fuse, and a strike anywhere match, roll it in a condom, and hide it where the sun doesn't shine, to be removed after going through security or while in the plane's loo, assembled, and exploded against the wall of the plane.

Ctrl-Alt-DelDecember 28, 2009 8:28 PM

Now this is interesting ...

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/29/...

They've removed one restriction: the rest remain. Is the TSA getting smarter? Include a particularly silly or unpopular measure in a package of new measures, then defuse criticism by revoking the silly one and leaving the rest in place.

A bit like Microsoft's DRM in Vista versus Windows 7, come to think of it ...

Michael AshDecember 28, 2009 10:33 PM

@Kurt

The only information that American authorities had of this guy's intentions was the word of his father. A single person's testimony should not be sufficient to ban a person from flying on an airline in any kind of reasonable world. If the policy is ever changed so that one report is enough, I'll be sure to be the first in line to report YOU as a potential terrorist who should not be allowed to fly.

JD BaldwinDecember 28, 2009 10:55 PM

@John Doe: "Anyone thought to mention that the TSA has not had an appointed head for a year, since the GOP is holding up Obama's nominee in the confirmation process?"

Obama only nominated a new head in mid-September, so confirmation is hardly "[held] up" by the usual timetables for Senate confirmation of political appointees. And who cares whether there is a titular "Administrator" of TSA? It has an acting head answering to the current disaster of a cabinet secretary. What do you think would be different if the nominee had been confirmed by now?

abcDecember 28, 2009 11:02 PM

I think we may need to find some way to eliminate the usefulness to terrorists of the private bomb assembly room we currently provide on planes, which is labeled "restroom" on the door. This won't stop anal cavity explosives with internal or external detonators, but we could at least make it harder to pull off the class of attacks that require visiting the restroom and assembling something or spending a long time in there extracting component from the anal cavity. Perhaps some combination of a time limit on how long any individual can be in the restroom, and/or remote monitoring cameras viewable by the flight attendants only, and/or a window so flight attendants can see in, combined with some kind of privacy screen on the sides of the window (or glass that only lets you look through if you're directly in front) so flight attendants can monitor what's going on in the restroom? So much for the Mile High Club, but if it reduces my chances of being blown out of the sky, I'm all for it.

Michael AshDecember 28, 2009 11:12 PM

@abc

Why are you so adamant about reducing your chances of being blown out of the sky? Said chances are already lower than your chances of being killed by lighting or shark, and far lower than your chances of being killed by falling in the shower, hit by a drunk driver, murdered by a mugger, and many other mundane things.

Why can't we find the courage to look at this latest attack and not do anything about it?

billDecember 28, 2009 11:26 PM

Surely no one should have to be on a plane with anyone who has been in contact with with Al Queda you must screen people properly the US home security is a joke I am never flying on a US airline again

Cloud 8December 28, 2009 11:27 PM

This is all a sham with a goal...

The TSA boys want everyone to go thru the "naked scanner", especially hot females and young college girls. They promise not to save the photos...right!

To save gas, no pissing in the blue water toilets. That adds weight and costs extra gas. To avoid urination issues, they will offer no more free drinks. Saves thousands !

Kip needed a new topic to ramble about...punk!

Retired, part-time TSA employees now get more hands-on, touchy feely, pat downs...they have felt neglected for years and need a hug.

No more blankets mean no more mile-high members (gross).

The captain was jealous because your new laptop was more powerful than all his systems combined.


Ellis DeeDecember 28, 2009 11:39 PM

Well, I've read all the comments here, and am mildly amused that most of you haven't pointed out that it's an act not of terrorism, but more of an act of terrorist theater.

Perhaps the "explosive device" wasn't made to detonate, perhaps the "failed detonation" along with flames and smoke was all for show.

Consider if the terror suspect wanted to actually comprise the airframe and cause a crash, he would do it in the privacy of the bathroom, and NOT in front of the passengers.

Really, this is so easy to see as theater, surprised y'all missed it.

mDecember 28, 2009 11:57 PM

In answer to Ellis Dee.

No...this was for real. The fuel tanks are not under the bathroom, they are under the seat he was in...which is why he sat there. No...we got **very lucky**. As someone initially said, if the detonator had worked, it would have been all over. Someone else also pointed out that it is, apparently, surprisingly difficult to detonate PETN, which may be the reason 2 attempts have failed.

DeltaDecember 29, 2009 12:01 AM

Everyone stop flying and shut down the airlines. They proved after 9/11 that they can't operate a week without income. Prices and restrictions will drop. Drive your car where you aren't subject to restrictions before you load up and leave.

@ Ellis Dee...the post above you said "this is all a sham". Don't think you're the first with that idea.

Ellis DeeDecember 29, 2009 12:55 AM

In response to "m":

I didn't say anything about fuel tanks, there are many ways to bring down aircraft with explosive devices.

And how about a source for your claim, I didn't find anything to back it up after a cursory search.

Oh, and since you tout experience, where did you get your training handling PETN?

And of course, I meant to type "compromise" (the airframe ...) in my last post.

MoeDecember 29, 2009 1:19 AM

The fuel tanks are not under the bathroom, they are under the seat he was in...which is why he sat there.

All the big jets I ever worked on had their fuel tanks in the wings. Never saw any seats out there.

PETN is difficult to detonate and I don't understand how he was going to do it with a liquid. There are far more effective and undetectable ways to blow up an airplane. Let's all hope they never figure it out.

AntonyDecember 29, 2009 1:24 AM

They missed! Aha! They are weakening!

El Quada is braging about this brillant success and they are all excited about it! What a crisis!

After working very hard for 20 minutes in the crapper the only thing the mighty ElQuada terrorist managed to do was to fry is Winny with an explosive underwear!

Do they know that in the US we use barbecues?

We are safe folk. Let's go and fly!

NinoskaDecember 29, 2009 1:48 AM

ALL of the increased security measures are a joke. 9/11 happened without bombs -- it was simple boxcutters! Security was supposed to be increased after 9/11. But somehow, people are able to get explosives on a plane?!?!?!?!?

Nothing that is done will actually serve as a deterrent, but instead a challenge.

THERE WILL BE ANOTHER 9/11!
THERE WILL BE ANOTHER FAILED ATTEMPT!
THERE WILL BE NO DEAD!
THERE WILL BE ATTACKS!

Quite honestly, we can't be surprised. 30,000+ more troops is not really a legitimate attempt at peace. We've been destroying their countries, and culture, religion and way of life for decades. How could we possibly be outraged when they do to us what we've been doing to them ?

I never thought I'd think this, but I'm starting to think that maybe Al Quaeda isn't the problem... The question should be asked "Who are the real terrorists?"

KenDecember 29, 2009 2:22 AM

This pseudo-security bullshit is only a hassle for innocent people. If someone is willing to give his life to kill other people, you can't stop him. It is really as simple as that.

AntonyDecember 29, 2009 2:47 AM

"THERE WILL BE ANOTHER 9/11!
THERE WILL BE ANOTHER FAILED ATTEMPT!
THERE WILL BE NO DEAD!
THERE WILL BE ATTACKS!"


So what?

How many people die every day in car crash?

You are way more likely to die in a car crash than killed by some supposed Islamic cracked-pots terrorists.

The best way to fight terrorism is not to let yourself be terrorized.

For the rest El Quada can try again we are ready with a capital R.

AntonyDecember 29, 2009 2:58 AM

Terrorists never work because it is like saying to one of your asshole neighbor:

If you don't stop to be and asshole I will blow up you other neighbor.

The response of this asshole neighbor is invariably: go ahead I am an asshole and I don't care about my other neighbor either.

If on another hand your neighbor is not the asshole you think he is then you are hitting the wrong target and you will achieve nothing.

The only way to change things is to attack the real culprit. Killing innocent passengers in an airplane is not going to achieve anything.

LordChrondorDecember 29, 2009 5:02 AM

I astounds me that anyone could get explosives aboard a plane leaving a European Airport, and frankly leaves me scared shitless about the ease with which such a device could pass through a U.S. security screening. As anyone who has ever traveled to the UK can attest, security is far more stringent (and intimidating) than it is here, with contraband dogs and police armed with sub-machine guns. Passengers are lined up single file and "sniffed" before boarding (at least this was my experience in pre-9-11 Glasgow). Where are these measures in our airports? Why not have armed security walking the aisles during flights? I dislike the idea of government control as much as the next person, but if it keeps Ahmed from releasing his jihad all over my face, I'll surrender a few constitutional rights.

CGomezDecember 29, 2009 6:20 AM

@LordChrondor:

And yet the supposed terrorist didn't manage to do much of anything. I think we should be provided serious proof that such smuggling can actually turn into a catastrophe.

Right now, bans on liquids and whatever else just seem to be guessing instead of actual science.

I'd rather time and money are spent on things that actually improve security, rather than just make us pretend the last attack couldn't happen now. (Who cares about the last attack?)

anony mouseDecember 29, 2009 6:34 AM

Are the plans really to make us safer or is something else going on? Air travel is down 20% from last year due to the economy. The airlines are hurting and certainly they are close to asking for another bailout. These rules ensure they will demand one, and soon. And if the last year has taught us anything, money given can have rules attached later (see the TARP stuff started under Bush and the new rules attached after the fact a few months later).

I am not saying this is a plan to take over the air line industry, I am however saying that it seems somewhat odd that this seems to be a likely result.

Flying CircusDecember 29, 2009 7:10 AM

@Michael Ash: you hit the nail right on the head.
I survived a car accident last year; a bit of a close shave, but I still drive my car. I took all security precautions like seat belt, air bag, everything. It still happened. And I still drive. It was my first accident in over 15 years.

The probability of an accident while flying is so much lower, it simply is not worth my time. Not worth anyones time.

Terrorists want to spread exactly that - terror. By definition. Even if they are only confused, stupid people who don't think about what they're doing, the most damage is done by lashing out hysterically at thin air. The price of freedom may be eternal vigilance, but I'd also keep an eye on probabilities ;-)

hjwolfeDecember 29, 2009 7:10 AM

Bringing drugs into prison thru rectums shows that a rectum bomb can be made. When Al Queda loses its morality and designs a rectum bomb, the airline industry will collapse. Most people will not be willing to be sodomized or endure a colonscopy.

markmDecember 29, 2009 7:36 AM

"If I'm advertising better food, I can tempt them with steak. If I advertise better security, what do I tempt them with, anal probes?

Posted by: Valdis Kletniek"

What good are anal probes when there's a 90% chance they'll pass a carryon with a conventionally designed bomb, several times as large as you could hide up there?

So how about something proven to work: interrogation by a well-trained and intelligent security agent, rather than the McDonald's rejects that TSA apparently recruits. It works for Israel. But the tickets would cost significantly more, since the agents would not only need to better, but several times as many would be needed. It might be worth it if this was done instead of the security theater searches and arbitrary restrictions.

Finally, Seaportair can avoid TSA restrictions because they fly only single-engine propeller planes with around nine passengers.

Finally,

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 9:04 AM

@Brandioch: "So I am asking why there aren't any instances of airlines advertising their EXTRA security."
_______________

I know you didn't say they were selling planes. My point was that one is selling a product and the other a service.

When using a service ocassionally, unless excessively risky (and planes clearly aren't, crashes are rare), most people, myself included, just want to get there fast and cheap. I never ask for specs on the air bags, seat belts, or side impact ratings on taxis because I'm not worried about getting in a wreck in the few moments per year I'm in a taxi. I don't even ask a friend about the security of his car, I just get in. When purchasing a car for myself on the other hand, one that I might drive a hundred thousand miles and carry my wife and children in, that is the vehicle that I'm more likely to eventually wreck in so I ask those questions.

I certainly didn't mean to imply you said something you didn't said. I was simply pointing out that buying a car is buying a product and choosing a plane is a usually choosing a service.

Happy New Year

Fat ManDecember 29, 2009 9:10 AM

"I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks."

Amen.

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 9:15 AM

@Bruce: "I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks."
___________

You're on to a security breakthrough there. If everyone besides the pilots and flight attendants had a blood alcohol level at least triple the legal limit, no one would be detonating or hijacking anything. (Well, they may be detonating stink gas, but that's another story...)

Of course, they'd not only have to permit trips to the bathrooms during the last hour of the flight, they'd need at least 10 more bathrooms.

KenDecember 29, 2009 9:30 AM

I apologize if this has already been posted, but I have only read about half of the responses on here.
A few people here have eluded to passing out weapons, or allowing passengers to be armed to help protect against terrorism. I think that there is a bit of a flaw in the logic that is being used. Granted a passenger base that is armed could possibly better protect themselves and the plane. But a terrorist that is planning on blowing up a plane, or flying the plane into a building isn't really going to care about there life, so an armed passenger base really wouldn't be that big of a deterrent, other than it may become more difficult to carry out a plan.
The statement "not caring about their life" was greatly simplified to keep the size of this post down, and should not be taken too literally.

@Bruce Schneier
In your opinion, how, as a single person or small group, can we help to alleviate or effect change against some of these rules / laws that are being put in place?
I plan on writing a letter to my congressman about these latest developments, but so far I think any of my recommendations / complaints have fallen upon deaf ears.

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 9:55 AM

@Ken: "A few people here have eluded to passing out weapons, or allowing passengers to be armed to help protect against terrorism. I think that there is a bit of a flaw in the logic that is being used."

I'm a bit fan of gun rights, but I see a flaw as well. It would enable perpetrators to be armed (unless you can magically tell a bad guy from a good guy, in which case you'd be a profiling bigot and sued). And I doubt a plane is a good place to play gunfight at the o.k. coral--unlike a car or a buidling, it does matter if a bullet goes through a window.
_____________

@Ken: "In your opinion, how, as a single person or small group, can we help to alleviate or effect change against some of these rules / laws that are being put in place?"

One thing I do is I put all my belongings in a zip lock bag and just toss it in the bin. I put on my wedding ring, watch, etc., after security. This not only saves me time (I only have to put them all on once instead of put them on, take them off, and put them on again), but people behind my wife and I don't have to stand there as we clear out our pockets, take off rings, necklaces, earrings, etc., and everything else i've

This is not to say that I agree with the airports security tactics, but it makes it easier.

mcbDecember 29, 2009 10:08 AM

@ LordChrondor

"I dislike the idea of government control as much as the next person, but if it keeps Ahmed from releasing his jihad all over my face, I'll surrender a few constitutional rights."

They're not yours to surrender.

Graham ShevlinDecember 29, 2009 10:15 AM

The book "The Science of Fear" does a good job of explaining how, as a species, we do a terribly bad (read: uselessly inaccurate) job of assessing risks.
The risk of being in a fatal commercial airplane accident are way lower than just about everything else in life, including merely getting out of bed.
Until the general population (which includes the TSA) (a) learns to start assessing risk properly, and (b) stops freaking out and modifying its habits because of a fear of terrorism, then we can expect more of these incidents, because terrorist groups can see that they are effective.
One last point: of course Al-Quaeda is going to claim responsibility for this guy's activities, whether or not he had anything to do with them. Making that claim, even if it is totally false, puts them back in the limelight.

juvatDecember 29, 2009 10:16 AM

Improve Airport Security? No problem! Mandate that Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Napolitano MUST fly commercial. (OK, Obama might be excused.) Problem fixed immediately.

Da GrinchDecember 29, 2009 10:22 AM

This is serious stuff. But I hope the TSA is going to be sensible.

People I have this vivid image of passengers lining up for security checks with their shoes in one hand and (you guessed it right) their underwear in the other hand. I wish a cartoonist would draw this for us- and hopefully TSA will see how stupid the whole situation is.

We have list - but do not use them properly. The terrorist - father tells on him and it never got passed up?? But now the TSA will insist that we pee in the airline seat in the last hour- what next- no liquids or food so we do not have to use the restrooms in the planes??

I think my little kids think more rationally than TSA.

Noble_SerfDecember 29, 2009 10:24 AM

I think they should deploy more dogs and trained handlers and begin the long, expensive task of building a professional uniformed transport security force.

I think the security workers need to follow the US military model with their training to instill pride, service and professional development. These folks would be fit, well trained and work in a meritocracy professional development model, much like the military does.

These two things would be time-consuming and expensive, but I think it's one of few long-term solutions worth checking out. What the dog didn't catch, the professional security force might.

This might work until some singularity of technology has us all tracked and monitored all the time. I hate to say it but folks will give in to that before they'll agree to pay for real security (taxes and time).

Chris GretencordDecember 29, 2009 11:01 AM

(1st) Airlines ARE NOT public transportation. They are privately owned businesses. They could impose any rule that could increase security if they wanted (and should). What your asking for is a double edged sword. Less security = likely attack/threat. More security = waiting in lines/long hours at the airport. So let me ask you, would you rather take time out of your busy schedule (which everyone procrastinates, so blame yourself) or death? Easy choice isn't it.

(2nd) How do we make airline travel safe? There are a few suggestions on these comments more fanciful than anything. Here are a few suggestions. Biometrics - fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, DNA to sort out and categorized the potential threat. Someone said something about hospital gowns, seriously why not? Well maybe not gowns themselves but something the airline provides, like a uniform/suit(That will be cleaned/repaired and scanned/inspected after every flight). TSA is not the only people at fault, I also blame the airline companies for not taking the extra measures they could also impose.

Seriously, asking to change your clothes to decrease the chances you will survive not worth it? The airlines can impose whatever they want. Will it cause people less likely to travel on their airlines because of a few extra measures? Maybe, maybe not depends on how safe you want to be and if it's worth it. Yes there will be an outrage just like after 9/11 but look people were still flying again like nothing happened.

Brandioch ConnerDecember 29, 2009 11:20 AM

@HJohn
"My point was that one is selling a product and the other a service."

Okay, so "service" it is.

Airline A provides that service and advertises that it has reduced security.

None of the airlines providing that service advertise that they have extra security.

So security is used in advertisements for that service. But only as reduced security.

Why is that service not advertised with security in the non-reduced direction?

And yes, people will pay extra for a service that provides additional features that they value. On the airlines, this is called "First Class".

So, in conclusion:
1. People do pay extra for service if they see the value.
2. Security is advertised for this service, but only as reduced security, not extra security.

Which leaves the question unanswered, why is extra security not advertised.

UnbelievableDecember 29, 2009 11:25 AM

I said it a week after 9/11 when our national over reaction was becoming evident and I will say it again. Osama Bin Laden has won. Hands down he has won and we (our constitution) have lost.

Clive RobinsonDecember 29, 2009 11:39 AM

@ Valdis Kletnieks,

"What is Osama bin Laden planning with all the *competent* recruits he's gotten since 2001? You know he must have gotten some - but he's saving them."

I'd say that now he has got the US/UK and other Troops out of the US/UK and onto his home ground "his boys and girls" are going for the "home advantage".

Why kill yourself killing those who are effectivly inocent, when you have finaly got the representatives of what you call "satan" onto your chosen field of action.

Every body bag that goes home with a member of the armed forces in it cost the home nation dearly and gives profit to Osama and co.

They competent ones are over their killing troops whilst those who appear incapable of lighting a fire cracker are making sure that "our authorities" are doing to us what some of our troops did to their civilians...

I would say Osama is quite pleased with the effort all round.

BalubaDecember 29, 2009 12:11 PM

"Terrorist fell asleep after having too many free drinks and was safely apprehended..." :P The first class part might be harder to crack.

DCDecember 29, 2009 12:12 PM

A slight quibble here. I do work with explosives, and of the nicely powerful fast-detonating high explosives PETN is by far the easiest to detonate if you leave out nitroglycerin and nitroglycol. Petn is a related ester that happens to be solid, and has a higher det speed (over 7 km/sec) for better shock production. It doesn't have a lot of heaving power (gas production) compared to other choices like dynamite -- it breaks things rather than throwing them a long way. This is one reason it's a major component in primacord -- reliable easy detonation, and a reason the military doesn't use it for a lot of things -- even a pistol bullet would set it off easily with high order detonation. You wouldn't want to go into battle with a guy carrying a satchel charge that would kill you *all* were he hit -- our military doubtless does some dumb things, but this isn't one of them. Yes, it does take a blasting cap (unlikely you'll get enough shock with black powder unless that is very well packaged -- see Nobel) but that is not rocket science tech. Nor is a metal-free blasting cap that can be activated chemically with nothing more than a squeeze (see Firefly in the old OSS manuals, from WWII -- potassium permanganate and a pill capsule of glycerin is a great way to start a fire that can then set off a blasting cap, you can even control the delay fairly well). And it can easily fit in a pocket and look like a nasty used hanky. Doesn't have to be seen to be squeezed.

If you don't believe this, read any good tome on high explosives. Or go get samples of the various ones and try hitting small samples with a hammer on an anvil (actually, a mechanized version of this test is a standard in the explosives development business, called the drop test). You'll find that petn only takes a tap to detonate -- almost no harder than the weaker primary explosive mercury fulminate, TNT takes a good hard swing, and the current plastics (HMX, RDX) take a really hard swing. Most of them are easier to detonate this way than black powder, actually (but the black is insanely static sensitive and flammable). Really, go get some smokeless pistol powder and some black, put a little on an anvil and try this -- it's easy and you'll learn something.

What it looks like this guy was trying to do, luckily without success is to *make* petn with nitric acid and pentaerthyrite, hoping that the heat released during the room temperature nitration (this is a lot of heat, I've made the stuff, and you melt a lot of ice to do it safely -- not a concern if you want it to go off, of course) would cause it to detonate, but instead, it simply burst into flame -- the 100% nitric most use to make this would have made his pants flame anyway, most likely. Which by the way, you can do with already made PETN and unless the quantity is large, it will just burn peacefully like a pile of smokeless gunpowder would. It's pretty, we've used it for party tricks.

Would the stated 80 or so grams have taken out the plane? Having used this stuff to break rocks etc, the answer is "maybe, maybe not" -- this is not a lot of explosive unless it's placed just so, perhaps in a shaped charge and with all the stars aligned right. Sure it would have killed the guy, and perhaps a couple other people close by, injured a few more, probably knocked a foot sized hole in the plane, but really -- planes can take that more often than not.

You'd have thought someone would have tried this "at home" before the real run and found out how unlikely it was to actually work. Or as stated above, maybe they didn't care -- it had the desired effect even not working as presumably intended.

The only thing keeping us safe from those types is how stupid they seem to be, not the TSA, which seems to match them in the low IQ contest. We're watching a race to the bottom here.

If I can't drive there (more dangerous, but in that case I can control most of the risks, and feel better, even if it is irrational) I'm not going.

Were I subjected to the complete loss of liberty in a way I couldn't ignore, I'd have to face the fact that I too am an idiot to continue to live here and contribute work and taxes to this mess. Too bad this is nearly worldwide -- the number of good places to go is getting smaller all the time. I do admit to a bias for places where my native language is spoken.

LeslieDecember 29, 2009 12:28 PM

JaNo needs to hire the security chick from Spinal Tap. She had no problem finding 6.5 inches covered in foil.

Seriously. The average American that had enough interest in mechanics to have read three issues of Popular Mechanics can come up with dozens of ways to sneak contra-ban on a plane. Not really hard. BTW, there are probably tons and tons of drugs still brought in on flights to MIA every year.

a GrinchDecember 29, 2009 12:37 PM

@ DC.

I agree with you on the contest to stupidity by TSA and Jihadist / Osama.

Many ways we can work on this- One is to make a loss of a plane to terrorism negligible. Osama will stop targeting it-

Peace loving people will never agree to it. More we "Protect" a target with visible and more and more expensive measures, the more attractive is the target for these terrorist.

Other is to sanitize air travel. Come with all your stuff. Airline gives new clothes and shoes. Packs your stuff (first class gets them laundered- but we get them crushed and wrinkled). At the end of the journey you get new clothes that were paid for by your ticket money.

But where do you draw the ??? Do you do these for 30 minute flights or only over the ocean flights? Then why only those? How could we be sure that these moronic jihadist will not try another target- like a car in a city?

While all this is going on our economy is going to the dogs- china does not have these issues and is concentrating on becoming a world economic power while USA is becoming more and more like a prison for ordinary Americans and all the industries are taking one way trip to China.

BTW, why could not this happen in a cruise ship- what is TSA going to do then- make sure cruise passengers come only with their wallets and the birthday suits (Summer time it ok- but not otherwise).

So I think some where down the line, we as people need to ask the question- what are we trying to protect and at what cost? ( I do not think politicians and bureaucrats do not have the cojnes to do that)

RonDecember 29, 2009 12:50 PM

Everyone entering the airport should be profiled by electronic and human means. Trained undercover boots on the ground, walking the terminal, gates, etc. would be crucial. Add some explosive sniffing dogs and uniformed handlers as well. The TSA employees I have seen during my weekly travels are not very bright; just following a manual. (I travel out of major NYC airports.)

The cost of additional trained people on the ground would be high and a political issue. Sadly politicians only care post event and the general public doesn’t learn from the past.

As for security gate screening, this is the last line of defense. Where is the defense in depth? Nothing stops someone from walking into a crowded terminal and blowing them self up. Perhaps there are measures in place not visible or reported to the general public. I don’t see stats on how many attempts were mitigated to determine effectiveness.

These new TSA rules are a joke and farce at best.

@JohnQSecurity: “Intelligence” is subjective. Terrorists don’t have to be brilliant, just smart enough to counter current security.

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 1:25 PM

@Brandioch: "So security is used in advertisements for that service. But only as reduced security. Which leaves the question unanswered, why is extra security not advertised."
________________

It's clear now. And you are correct.

And the answer is, because security is inconvenient and most people don't feel threatened. If cars made people jump through a bunch of cumbersome hoops in the name of safety, and a car popped up with good enough security without the hoops, people would jump over it. No one is going to buy a car that advertises "breathalyzer" as a security feature to ensure they are sober when driving.

So we are in agreement.

Of course, if planes were crashing or being hijacked every other month, security would have a market.

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 1:35 PM

@12/29/2009 1:25PM: "No one is going to buy a car that advertises "breathalyzer" as a security feature to ensure they are sober when driving. "
___________

Unless of course they are buying the car for their high school or college age child.

DCDecember 29, 2009 3:36 PM

@Grinch
Thanks. Haven't been on a cruise ship for awhile, that's one thing that would take a VERY long drive for me to get to, and I frankly miss it. But the last couple of times I was extremely impressed at their security indeed - well before 9/11. Seemed like it might even beat the Israeli stuff everyone goes on about, but was quite transparent and unobtrusive. (this was on Carnival, BTW).

You are parted from your baggage before boarding, and it's all throughly checked, X rayed and opened by people who *themselves* are at risk if they miss something, but not in your sight, so you don't notice unless you're paying attention to things like that. You don't notice unless you've put telltales in your bags -- they are just in your room when you get there, all the wrinkles are intact. Whoever they have doing these things, they're real pros, not underpaid jerks.

Everything and everyone going on or off the boat has this done at every stop, no exceptions. You can't even sneak a Cuban cigar on board unless you change the wrapper with a non Cuban type -- I tried and was only successful on the second try.

You are issued a hard to forge picture/hologram ID card you WILL keep on you because you can't get a drink without it (and any costs put on it come off your credit card automatically so you don't want to lose it), or get back on the ship, for which they have provisions so in the case of losing it in some foreign country, you can still get back on instead of sitting in the local hoosegow as an illegal immigrant, but it's not fun at all -- so it doesn't happen much. You have to really validate yourself to get back on, and that can be hard indeed if you've lost a wallet or similar.

For example, it's good to remember the names of your room servants so they can say, yeah, that's the same guy who got off the boat, stuff like that, or have a pal in the US embassy, which probably means missing the boat altogether and having to find your own way home later.

As they go to a lot of places where people try to sneak into the US from, they've seen all the tricks, and have effective counters to them all. An identical twin might foil their system, but the other one would have to stay behind.

Your bags are parted from you again when you get home -- and checked for anything that would disturb US customs. I know this as I've seen them approach people and offer to save them from being hassled because they knew they had something customs would get upset about and likely find, because they found it first. Quite impressive.

And it's all done almost so you wouldn't notice unless you're looking for it, all smiles and have a great day....and they mean it or are the best fakers I've ever seen. Their job description is "create the most fun possible" which of course includes not having the boat used for smuggling or blowing up and so on. And they take it very seriously as one incident and boom go all their nice profits...which are better than the airlines, so they have something to lose.

Our guess (I took my employees on a cruise) is that they employ a goodly number of practical psychologists, some of whom masquerade as your room servants. There is no other explanation for how quickly they size people up and direct them to the most fun for that individual, and spot and neutralize any troublemakers so easily and quickly. I have never seen an outfit so well run (from the customer point of view anyway). My conversations with off duty employees say the same.

If airlines were like that, I'd love flying again, but frankly, commercial big airlines were never that much fun. I like small planes where I have the illusion that if something went wrong, I could fly the thing myself. And for whatever reason, the subjective experience of this engineer says the smaller planes have a LOT more power to weight and various other safety margins. Compared to the puddle jumpers, the big airliners seem made of cardboard and seem to barely be able to fly at all. The end of that runway always seems awfully close before rotation in a bigger plane, where the little guys just jump into the sky. Same idea on landings.

Serge BoucherDecember 29, 2009 3:40 PM

I wonder where all the posters who "don't want to fly ever again" live and whether they travel much...

I'll admit the additional "security" regulations are a bit of a pain, however I've been on nearly a hundred flights in the last eighteen months and I can count on one hand the security checks that took more than ten minutes. Why anyone would choose to drive five hours to avoid such a trifling inconvenience is beyond me.

(I am sure everybody here knows that driving is substantially more dangerous than flying on a distance-traveled basis.)

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 3:50 PM

@DC at December 29, 2009 3:36 PM

I'm a frequent cruiser, Royal Carribean is my preferred line, and your points are well taken.

Two things though...

First, I don't think that the people scanning your luggage are on the boat. I could be wrong, but I believe it done before it is put on the board.

Second, flying really is a different animal. I don't agree with most of the TSA's measures, but I don't think we can hand it over to the airlines. Mostly because if there is a weakness in one airline, it can be exploited to attack a larger one. Unless, of course, we screened everyone and everything on each individual plane which would no doubt be a disaster.

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 3:57 PM

@serge: "I'll admit the additional "security" regulations are a bit of a pain, however I've been on nearly a hundred flights in the last eighteen months and I can count on one hand the security checks that took more than ten minutes. Why anyone would choose to drive five hours to avoid such a trifling inconvenience is beyond me."
________

I tend to agree. I think taking off my shoes is absurd, but I don't consider it an abomination against my civil liberties. I dont' like the liquids ban, but again, it doesn't do anything to my liberties.

It's also been my experience that many people who see airline security (and I concede the tactics are ridiculous) as a threat to our constitution voted in high percentages for the group that just passed health care reform, something that will hurt all our liberties just by virtue of being citizens, not just when we choose to fly.

I dont' want to derail this thread, and I don't agree with the TSA (and I wish the Department of Homeland Security was never formed). But I frequently have enjoyed Bruce's writings about how we focus on rare risks and ignore big ones, which is exactly what people are doing in regards to TSA vs other larger threats.

HJohnDecember 29, 2009 4:03 PM

@12/29/2009 3:57PM: "I tend to agree. I think taking off my shoes is absurd, but I don't consider it an abomination against my civil liberties. I dont' like the liquids ban, but again, it doesn't do anything to my liberties. "
_______________

The no-fly list is a different story that I will leave aside, save for to say it is a threat to liberties.

CryptoDecember 29, 2009 4:52 PM

- After the last "attack vector" involving bottles of liquid. They made everyone through their drinks at security.

- With the Shoe bomber everyone had to take off their shoes to have them inspected.

Wouldn't it have been more fun if they made you take your underwear off at security, throw it out and get a pat down in the crotch? Beats cutting down on the amount of luggage you are allowed and seems more related

Michael AshDecember 29, 2009 10:51 PM

@Serge Boucher

Driving is substantially more dangerous? That's another one of those misleading safety things that pops out when you examine the wrong numbers.

Per passenger-mile, driving is indeed about 10 times more dangerous than flying. Ooh, scary!

This is misleading because the death rate on an airline is about 1 per billion miles, and in a car it's about 1 per 100 million miles. You could literally drive a car all day every day for your entire life, and odds are still vastly in favor of dying of something else.

To put it another way: let's say you're traveling 1000 miles, and you're deciding whether to fly or drive. If you fly, your chances of surviving the journey are 99.9999%. If you drive, your chances are 99.999%. Is it "substantially" more dangerous to drive this trip? I think most people would say no.

It's true that airliners are safer than cars, but both have a very low risk of killing you. To say that driving is substantially more dangerous than flying is like saying that showering is substantially more dangerous than a sponge bath, because of the risk that you might slip and fall.

Jean-Marc ValinDecember 29, 2009 11:04 PM

Personally, there's two things I don't understand:

1) How did the latest bomber and the "shoe bomber" managed to fail? It's almost like they got caught/stopped on purpose, but I don't understand why (come on, trying to light your shoe with matches next to other passengers!).

2) Why has no terrorist tried blowing up their clothes or put a bomb in their rectum yet? You can be sure that if anyone does that, the resulting new "security measures" would completely kill the aviation industry (which is exactly what terrorism is about).

AndrewDecember 30, 2009 12:18 AM

Meanwhile, three actual people in Detroit were murdered yesterday. Does anyone care about that? Isn't actual murder worse than attempted murder?

RuddinDecember 30, 2009 12:30 AM

Why don't they go for less challenging targets? Mall, train stations, buses etc? Just walk in with a back pack and...... no questions asked.

Major VariolaDecember 30, 2009 12:54 AM

1. The ass bomber would have downed
the plane.

2. Bomb aboard + triggered = WIN.
All the media, all the exposed vulnerability. Plus you learn about
no air marshalls, scanners, holiday
travel, ignored embassy calls, watch
lists, AND let govt officials stick feet
in mouth. Another knife in aviation
and race relations.

3. Likely chem was petn below layer
of sugar + chlorate, with sulphuric
in the syringe.

4. Glass empires should remember
that even palestinians can throw stones.

jayDecember 30, 2009 3:53 AM

"Do we really think the terrorist won't think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?"

Yes and No.. All depends on the motive of the terrorist. If the terrorist's target is in the destination side he would have done it closer to the destination.

If the terrorist just wants to only kill innocent passengers then he would have done it half way to the destination.

If the origination is the target he would have done it before taking off.

markmDecember 30, 2009 5:35 AM

If a terrorist really only wanted to kill innocent passengers, he would blow up the line at security. The bomb can be an entire carry-on pack, no need to get it past security scanning, if you pick the right time it may kill and injure more people than can fit into one airplane, and the bomber even has a chance to get away and do it again. Set a 2 minute timer, drop the pack, and move out at a fast walk to the exits. Someone will call security, but it will blow before anything is done about it.

And with the nitwits in charge, I'm sure the response will have the effect of making the lines longer and moving them out of the terminal building, where it's even easier to blow them up and get away.

BobDecember 30, 2009 11:34 AM

How about we stop pissing everyone off by killing their family members and friends? This is the primary reason asshats like Abdulmuttalab try their antics; the terr'ists say it themselves. Radical Islam or whatever is just the particular expression of this anger apropos to the part of the world we usually bomb. In turn, our choice of targets has a lot to do with who is angriest at us. It hardly takes a genius to see how the bloodshed is self-perpetuating. I'm never the least bit surprised when the world's biggest bully finds a lugie in their lunchbox.

As is evident from events like this -- or, for that matter, a cursory consideration of TSA procedures -- someone determined to cause destruction can easily sneak whatever they want past security. The only way to stop lunatics from trying rectal dynamite, etc., is to go to the source: back off on the use of military violence.

Some may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

David PerryDecember 30, 2009 5:18 PM

"How about we stop pissing everyone off by killing their family members and friends? This is the primary reason asshats like Abdulmuttalab try their antics; the terr'ists say it themselves. Radical Islam or whatever is just the particular expression of this anger apropos to the part of the world we usually bomb. In turn, our choice of targets has a lot to do with who is angriest at us. It hardly takes a genius to see how the bloodshed is self-perpetuating. I'm never the least bit surprised when the world's biggest bully finds a lugie in their lunchbox."

Dumb argument. We razed both Germany and Japan to the ground during WWII, in both cases sometimes completely annihilating cities simply to kill civilians. I don't see waves of Germans and Japanese blowing themselves up in airplanes, do you? In comparison to that, we have been positively careful to avoid civilian casualties in the Middle East, to the point where we have suffered additional casualties of our own in the process. We're not perfect--war never is--but there's no obvious causal link here. Not to mention, it doesn't explain why they have been launching terror attacks at us since long before we invaded any countries over there. As for what they say, gee, evil people *never* lie about their motives for doing things. You'll recall that the Al-Quaeda training manual specfically instructs members to lie their asses off about what gets done to them in captivity.

Joshua CooperDecember 30, 2009 10:28 PM

@ David Perry

"I don't see waves of Germans and Japanese blowing themselves up in airplanes, do you?"

Yes, WWII was a rather different time, place, and circumstance. I'm just saying that the places we fuck with are the ones where our testicular firestarters live. And it's not just us, of course; Israel does a pretty good job of it, too. Palestine is a rallying point for all sorts of Islamic nutcases. Again, look at their own rhetoric. No, seriously, read a transcript of one of OBL's interviews (or at least search it for "Palestine"):

http://www.anusha.com/osamaint.htm

"In comparison to that, we have been positively careful to avoid civilian casualties in the Middle East, to the point where we have suffered additional casualties of our own in the process."

Probably right, but I doubt you have any substantive evidence for this claim. It's also unlikely to be verifiable, since any statistics about alternative policies would be counterfactual.

"We're not perfect--war never is--but there's no obvious causal link here."

There are several places where the following sequence of events plays out:

1. The US bombs or arms or otherwise messes with region A. Often, this is by proxy, sometimes all or part of which is imaginary.

2. The people of A end up destitute, which pisses them off.

3. Some of the angriest people also fall into the "craziest people" category. These people have flammability issues.

For example: Palestine. Israel and the USA are best buddies. The latter gives the former bazillions of dollars a year to buy/make weapons. Israel's government is run by a bunch of really bellicose, often greedy individuals, so they're constantly bombing/razing/landgrabbing, with the US's explicit consent. (We vote against every UN measure censuring Israel, and, as I said above, arm them to the teeth.) The people living in the West Bank and Gaza end up really, really bad off. It turns out they're mostly Muslims. This upsets a large portion of the Muslim world (consult any survey on the topic). Some of them go off the deep end, melding their insane versions of Islam inextricably with being pissed off at the US for messing with Palestine by proxy. Flaming underpants ensues.

Other examples of Islamic people on the wrong end of US guns? The Phillipines, where an anti-Western insurgency has been raging for decades. (They used to be a US colony, and we've been messing with them for most of the past century.) Somalia. Yemen. Iraq. Iran. All of these places are on AQ's rap sheet.

"Not to mention, it doesn't explain why they have been launching terror attacks at us since long before we invaded any countries over there."

I don't think this is true. Can you cite any attacks by radical Muslims on the US before substantial intervention in Islamic areas? Before the Suez incident, they used to attack the British instead.

"As for what they say, gee, evil people *never* lie about their motives for doing things."

For the literate, it is easy to view the same materials AQ adherents world-over get excited about. Or do you know something that only AQ members know about their *real* intentions? "Lie" is nonsensical in this context.

Also, I'm calling Godwin's Law on your ass.

Michael AshDecember 30, 2009 11:39 PM

@Joshua Cooper

Godwin's Law is a purely descriptive law which states that the probability that Hitler or Nazis will be mentioned in any give thread of conversation approaches 1 over time. "Calling Godwin's Law on your ass" makes no sense!

Serge BoucherJanuary 5, 2010 3:45 AM

@ Michael Ash:
"let's say you're traveling 1000 miles, and you're deciding whether to fly or drive. If you fly, your chances of surviving the journey are 99.9999%. If you drive, your chances are 99.999%. Is it "substantially" more dangerous to drive this trip? I think most people would say no."

---

Then most people would be wrong… "10 times more likely to kill you" is indubitably "substantially more dangerous".

The operative word here is "more". Driving is riskier than flying, even though neither is particularly risky. I never said we should all cower in our homes because traveling is oh-so-dangerous, just that invoking safety to justify driving rather than flying is dumb.

Bruce MonkJanuary 5, 2010 1:47 PM

This is a long thread and I will not attempt to respond to all of the comments on which, after 25+ years in the industry, I have some opinion.

The choice of air travel versus some other mode of transportation is generally based upon cost, time, and necessity. Security, comfort,... are factors which come into the decision making process when there is an extreme disparity, i.e. high risk (or perception thereof) or personal discomfort. If one considers the "serious injury" factor in addition to the death factor, then statistically driving is much riskier than flying. However, the majority of airline accidents are during take offs and landings and most automobile trips are short and the majority of accidents occur within a short distance of home. Hence what do the statistics really mean?

The conclusion is that "Security Theater" has the intent to build a perception of greater security to sustain discretionary air travel to offset the media hype that is associated with every airline incident. Economics and not security is the reason for the theater. The fact is that for the longer distance travel scenarios an airline is definitely safer, often less costly, and usually much faster. Therefore, the "Security Theater" serves a purpose, but it has little impact on making for a more secure flight. It may discourage amateur would be copy cats and it may stop a few psychos that might cause a disruption. I have not seen any statistics to support this.

My concern is the diversion of resources
to implement the "theater" for the short term benefit of bolstering travel volume takes away from the implementation policies and programs that actually improve security.

I have recently read many of Bruce Schneier's papers and interviews. It is hard to disagree with his assessment of the current status of our security and why we have come to be in this situation.

I agree that the only real security must come from better intelligence and cultural changes. I have serious doubts that the will exists to bring about the necessary cultural changes. However, I am in favor of trying.

On the subject of better intelligence, we are suffering from bureaucracy, data overload, over-zealous privacy concerns, and, most critically a real lack of desire to improve security at the "possible" expense of hurting the economy.

I contend that the critical technology exists and the implementation time needed to bring about substantial improvement in our deterrence can be measured in months, not years. Obviously this is not the forum to discuss this in detail.

As to profiling and whether it works or not, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but it is the foundation for our credit system, insurance/liability system, and many law enforcement activities. In fact, had profiling been used in tracking the Detroit incident from "cash purchase" to "no luggage" and "travel itinerary: Yemen to ... to U.S." then the father's alert and the presence of a name on a "watch list" would not matter.

Reliance on "Watch Lists" and Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) assume that the person is stupid enough to be traveling under an identity previously identified as being suspect. In this case they would have been correct; however, the system failed. The behavioral pattern associated with this trip has been known as a red flag for many years. No personal data or cultural information had to be collected or shared to connect the dots and intercept the bomber at any point in his trip.

Without being able to better verify the true identity of the traveler there are many holes in any system that relies on age, sex, or nationality. These are too easy to conceal. The profiling that works is that which is based on behavior. This is in use and working effectively where the resources are deployed and the time taken to observe, collect information, and correlate said information.

Much of the data can be collected without direct contact with the individual. At the time of ticket purchase the payment method, itinerary, intent to check bags, and the travel document to be used for identification can be collected. At the time of checkin baggage information and itinerary adjustments can be noted. Starting with the ticket purchase and without any privacy invasion, identity verification and behavioral patterns can be developed.

Security and privacy are founded on the premise that information is shared only on a “need to know” basis. If this premise is adhered to then both security and privacy can share the same space. Large data mining and data sharing schema have two common problems; too much irrelevant/conflicting data to focus in real-time on that which is relevant and serious privacy conflicts where information given for a specific purpose is made available to others without permission.

NathanaelJanuary 5, 2010 4:12 PM

"1. The US bombs or arms or otherwise messes with region A. Often, this is by proxy, sometimes all or part of which is imaginary.

2. The people of A end up destitute, which pisses them off.

3. Some of the angriest people also fall into the "craziest people" category. These people have flammability issues."

Yes, this is a common pattern. Note that with Germany and Japan, we instituted the Marshall Plan and left them *rich* and *democratic*. That's why this didn't happen after WWII. In contrast, it famously happened after WWI.

It is not, however, the most common pattern. That is:

1. The US props up or supports an obviously corrupt and violent puppet government which is slaughtering its own people (Saudi Arabia today, Vietnam before the war there, Afghanistan today, most of South and Central America for 150 years, Iran under the Shah).

2. The people get understandably pissed, and blame the US as well as their own government. Their own government encourages them to blame the US, of course.

3. Some of the angriest people also fall into the "craziest people" category. These people have flammability issues.

JurjenJanuary 8, 2010 7:30 AM

The (western) world has gone upside down since the attack. Even the least amount of privacy is no longer important and Schiphol Airport has just send the order for 60 extra bodyscans (150000 euros each) as advised by the governement. In the mean while, it's already known across the internet that this machine could not have detected this 'explosive' material anyways. So once again we're playing on the odds of "they must be frightened!"

What I don't understand is that nobody tries to see what the cause is of the terrorism. Don't get me wrong: Americans are very nice and kind people (I've visited the country a few times), but when it comes to international politics... Let's just say a lot of idiots are at the wrong places. America tries to govern it's people by letting them live in fear. Americans are xenophobe, but don't know what's going on outside of their country. Okay, there is press freedom, but the mass media are just far too much controlled. So when the US is trying to play world ruler and interferes in stuff they should not interfere with in other countries, I'm not the least surprised that the locals are getting very upset. And let's be honoust: every country has it's goofballs, but in countries that still live in the Mideval ages that just might lead to extreme violence, like terrorism in the air traffic. They're just saying that they want to be let alone, but the goofballs in politics just think that we all just should start wars.

As long as the wrong people are leading the Western countries (the ones that can't think properly for themselves) and we're keeping most of the people dumb, there's not going to be a change.

Thaddeus ButtmunchJanuary 9, 2010 10:02 AM

Him and the shoe bomber...don't the dumb s**ts KNOW you need a blasting cap to ignite high explosives???

Lucky for us they don't.

Can someone explain to me why..eg the Locherbie bomb? such a small device can bring down an airliner?? I know it has something to do with the pressurization of the cabin. I guess when the plane's skin opens up it busts like a balloon.

JurjenJanuary 9, 2010 1:17 PM

Indeed, a perfect circular tube can cope with huge forces, which will be spread over the surface. Just a small flaw or breaking a window is enough to break with the strength.

This excuse for a terrorist failed completely. Powder on your leg? To much oxygen. An explosion is a chain reaction caused by a lack of oxygen while trying to burn. Example: blow up a firecracker (it'll explode). Open up a firecracker, throw the powder on a pile on the street and try to ignite: at most a flame.

veryirritatedJanuary 15, 2010 4:38 AM

Is it just me?
Or are we now in a situation where 'extremists' have actually won? This debate has covered a wide area of threats and countermeasures, and speculation about what happens next.
BUT no-one expresses MY view about this. The world is a very complicated and dangerous place. If society (in ALL and ANY countries) is prepared to accept in their midst people who believe in Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden, then eventually the consequence will be 'faith-based violence' of some kind.

I can see NO substantial difference between 'extreme Islamists' and 'extreme evangelicals'. We have both. We can afford to tolerate neither.

Morris LewisJanuary 15, 2010 9:50 AM

What is also lost in this hysteria is that we choose every day to do a far more dangerous activity with a vastly greater probability of injury and death: drive in a car. And then we increase our odds of financial and physical injury even more by talking on the telephone while that car is traveling more than 1 mile per minute. I never heard Fox News mention the statistic of the total number or percentage of people hurt or killed on airplanes compared to cars while they lambasted President Obama for failing to prevent an attack that didn't even succeed.

Also, kudos to the passengers on that plane. They are the real heroes. I wish the "media" would focus on how they made air travel far safer for the rest of us because they proved that now terrorists have to deal with alert passengers that outnumber them many times over.

All the changes to the so called "airport security" have done is make air travel the most inconvenient form of transportation. I'll take my chances in my car unless I have to cross an ocean.

Sluggo137January 16, 2010 8:09 PM

Sorry I couldn't read ALL the comments; you people that state you won't fly anymore are: a) idiots, and, b) behaving EXACTLY as the terrorists desire. YOU are part of the problem. As Bruce said, as soon as "we" figure out a way to stymie "them", they'll just move on to something else. And, they'll likely meet with some degree of success, due to people, as I mentioned above, that give in to their efforts, change their very way of life. Remember Spain? Train bombs? Unemployed politicians in the election that followed the attack? Sheep, just like you folks that insist on sticking your head in the sand, and driving or taking a train to...where? Hawaii?
It is unfortunate that we, who abide by laws, are forced by laws to treat these people in a fair fashion. These people have never heard of the Geneva Conventions, and wouldn't abide by them if they had. Here's what you do with an enemy combatant you find, not wearing a uniform. You offer him or her a blindfold and a cigarette. Place near a post or wall, then, you give one man out of several a blank cartridge, give the rest live ammo, and then you execute them.
I don't know if it's true, but rumor had it that some of the Chechen rebels that took over that school in Russia, found themselves to be dead, wrapped in pig skin, and buried, face-down, facing away from Mecca. Sounds like a damn fine plan to ME.

PetuniaFebruary 15, 2010 6:19 PM

“A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither” ... Thomas Jefferson, third president of the U.S.

charlesMay 29, 2010 11:49 AM

Firstly, to all you of the TSA haters, the "Christmas Underwear Bomber originated from overseas not the USA. Over one Billion passengers have flown since 9-11, without a major air related incident domestically!! No attempted hijackings, no firearms discharging in the cabin of an aircraft, no stabbings or blunt force trauma. TSA has made a huge difference in keeping these weapons OFF the plane. It is very safe today because of their efforts in aviation security. Do you really want to go back to pre-9-11 airport security. GROW UP LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, you sound immature and spoiled. Securing the aircraft is not a perfect science but it is certainly much better than when the airlines gave the contract to the lowest bidder in the good old days, before TSA.

JurjenJuly 20, 2010 11:48 PM

@Charles: that's exactly what you need to believe, according to the gouvernement. Grow up yourself and go find out the truth: airport security is an hoax! If they want to take AirForce One and put it in the Empire State, they'll find a way. Any other aircraft will only be easier.

Gouvernements play the fear game. As long as you feel afraid, they can keep playing their money games with your tax money.

ESTA clearance, TSA, body scans, etc. are not going to stop any serious threat, only some DIY-troublemakers that won't cause any harm in the end. It's a waste of money. Let's stop producing cars that can reach up to 200km/h, that will really cause less kills.

KyleApril 30, 2013 4:04 AM

I am more and more convinced that TSA agents actually are NOT human and are the Reptilians posing as such to have us be obedient like robots.

Look them up and you'll see the TSA and supposed Reptilians have similar behavior that feeds the ego.

Maybe not all of them but most of them are and the ones that aren't are too afraid to stand up since they will *vanish* if they do.

Right now we are in the conjunction of the transition to the AntiChrist government which the only thing missing is the temple in Jerusalem to house him.

Simon TarsesDecember 25, 2013 5:31 PM

@Aurini: You should be pressuring the government to be building HSR so that you can get to parts of the USA without any bullshit on the part of TSA.

Simon TarsesDecember 25, 2013 7:06 PM

@Serge Boucher:

Then most people would be wrong… "10 times more likely to kill you" is indubitably "substantially more dangerous".

The operative word here is "more". Driving is riskier than flying, even though neither is particularly risky. I never said we should all cower in our homes because traveling is oh-so-dangerous, just that invoking safety to justify driving rather than flying is dumb.

Not only that, driving just invites all sorts of stress, as this movie will show. Why should people give up the freedom to fly anywhere just to end up like Clark Griswold and his family? Also, why should they have to buy a big SUV or van just to do this?

Simon TarsesDecember 25, 2013 7:16 PM

@Fat Man: This assumes that all terrorists are Muslims. Most of the terrorists in the 1970s weren't.

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